An inmate was admitted to Toronto Jail on April 26 and became ill on May 1. Two days later, on the recommendation of the jail’s medical staff, this man was admitted to St. Michael’s Hospital. He underwent testing, which resulted in the diagnosis that he had contracted typhoid fever. A second inmate who exhibited similar symptoms was admitted to hospital for observation and testing on May 6.
Immediately after the diagnosis of typhoid fever, action was taken on several fronts: first, to determine the source of the disease; second, to trace and test possible contacts with the patients; and third, to ensure preventive measures.
The most recent medical information is as follows. The patient who was confirmed as having typhoid fever and treated at hospital has now been discharged from the hospital and returned to the Toronto Jail. All the tests carried out on the second man were negative for typhoid fever, and he also has been released from hospital. Negative results have been received on the testing of 49 other persons at the jail, including correctional staff and inmates who may have had contact with the confirmed case, as well as food handlers and laundry workers. Tests and examinations have also been negative for those contacts tested in the community and in other correctional institutions, both provincial and federal.
All the information obtained would appear to support the statement by the medical officer of health for the city of Toronto on May 7 that, given the time element of the onset of this illness, it is most likely that this confirmed case of typhoid fever contracted the disease before he went into the jail.
I want to commend and thank all those involved in the co-ordinated response to this situation. Excellent co-operation has been received from St. Michael’s Hospital, the city’s public health department and medical officer of health, our own Ministry of Health, and the administration, staff and inmates of the Toronto Jail. I would like to say a special word of thanks to Dr. Paul Humphries, the senior medical consultant in my ministry. Thanks to the collective actions and co-operation of these people and organizations, this situation was very well handled.
Is the minister aware there has been a negligible decrease, if any, in phosphorous going into the lake at this time, fully one year after the initiation of the minister’s three-year program? Could he explain why so little action has taken place on the three major recommendations that have been made so that the government could meet its target for 1983? Can the minister in particular assure this House that the government’s targets for 1983 will be met in 1983?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I cannot at this point, because I have not had an opportunity since coming to this ministry to review the specific levels in terms of the abatement program in Lake Simcoe. I will take the honourable member’s question as notice and attempt to have a detailed answer for him by tomorrow.
First is the diversion of sewage from Aurora and Newmarket through the York-Durham line. Is he aware that in that instance the line will not be completed until at least 1984, a year later than the target date of 1983?
The third item suggested was to remove eight tons by means of improved facilities in Barrie and Orillia. Whereas the former Minister of the Environment, Mr. Parrott, said over a year ago that cost-sharing meetings between the province and the cities of Barrie and Orillia would take place “within the next month” -- that was May 1980 -- a year later no such meetings have occurred.
Hon. Mr. Norton: As I understand it at the present time, the York-Durham link, which is proposed to reach Aurora and Newmarket, will be completed by late 1984 and will address that aspect of the problem.
Hon. Mr. Norton: On the basis of information I have received I do not believe the original target can be achieved, but certainly the commitment is still there and it will be achieved by late 1984, as I understand it.
With regard to the situation in Barrie, it is my understanding a study is under way, financed by my ministry and utilizing the consultants to the municipality, to determine precisely what will be required to reduce the phosphorous loading from the present levels to the target levels. The completion date for that study, as I understand it, is this month. I have not received any specific information on it but that is the target date for completion of that study as it relates to Barrie.
As soon as that is completed, a similar study will be undertaken with respect to Orillia. When it is determined what specific measures are necessary in those communities to achieve the targets, the ministry will pay 50 per cent of the cost of the necessary steps to achieve that result. So the commitment is there at the present time.
Mr. Smith: The minister has failed to mention that the four-ton improvement from the Holland Marsh is not even started. He has admitted the Aurora-Newmarket diversion is at least a year late. On the subject of the cities of Barrie and Orillia, is the minister not aware the study he is talking about is a pilot experiment using a mobile sand filter, and that the filter was late being delivered and, although it is working reasonably well, has not yet been tested in Orillia?
But the real problem is that unless the fund sharing is worked out in a way that is satisfactory, neither of those cities will be moving with any speed whatever. Whereas such discussions were promised over a year ago, they still have not started. Will the minister see to it that, apart from the study of this portable filter, there are discussions immediately on the principle of cost sharing between Barrie and Orillia on the one hand and Ontario on the other?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the discussions the honourable member refers to, it is my understanding that a meeting is scheduled for June 19 with the municipalities, which will be the first of a series of such meetings between my ministry and the affected municipalities. I would assume those concerns would be addressed at that time.
Mr. Smith: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The minister has now had the weekend in which to confer with his colleague the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett), to determine whether the Minister of Housing did, in fact, call the Minister of Agriculture and Food to send him out on what must surely have been an unusual mission, that is, to have his parliamentary assistant examine, for the possibility of removing objections, lands in Vaughan.
Has the minister now refreshed his memory as to whether he was called by the Minister of Housing, and thus started this peculiar series of events? Is there, let us say, a possibility that he was called by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Housing, the member for York North (Mr. Hodgson)? Is it possible he made the call? Has the minister had a chance to refresh his memory and will he now own up as to who called him to send him on this unusual mission?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I made it quite clear on Friday that I received a call from the Minister of Housing’s office to my office. This resulted in my asking the member for Elgin (Mr. McNeil), my parliamentary assistant, to visit the site to see what the concerns might be. He is not here today, I do not think. I have not had a chance to talk to him this morning, but as I remember my conversation at that time -- and I have tried to review it in my mind over the weekend -- one drives west on the south side of the road and finds a very rough area of land.
Mr. Smith: Since my question, by way of supplementary, is whether it is possible that the call was from the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Housing, the member for York North, I would hope the minister, when he rises to answer this supplementary, might answer that, among other questions.
Mr. Smith: I asked whether it might have been from the member for York North and the minister is not answering that. He says the call was from the office. Given that the minister originally said to the press it was from the Minister of Housing, and then he said to this House it was from that minister, and now it has become the office, I would like the minister to reflect on whether it might have been the parliamentary assistant. Can he tell us whether it was from him, whether it was from a man or a woman, and whether he knows anything about this mysterious caller who apparently was sufficiently important to send the minister out on a very unusual matter while it was being discussed in front of the Ontario Municipal Board.
Could he also tell us how it is that the second letter sent by the minister, the one that has to do with the lands of those clients represented by Mr. Webb, was deposited with the OMB by Davis and Webb and not by the Minister of Housing? Even though the original was sent by the Minister of Housing, and obviously a copy was sent by the minister to the firm of Davis and Webb, that copy was deposited five days after the minister signed the original. Can the minister explain why, and at whose request, he was sending a copy of a letter he wrote to the Minister of Housing to one of the lawyers involved in an OMB hearing, and whether he thinks it is reasonable, in the middle of an OMB hearing, to be writing letters of this kind?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: At the time of the second letter the member refers to, I was not aware there even was an OMB hearing on at that stage. I still do not know the date of the OMB hearing. My second letter just stated that the land was similar to the land we had already commented on, and I had withdrawn my objection to that land. That was the letter to the Minister of Housing.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Perhaps since the minister gave instructions to his staff after this particular case that they were not to contravene statements or policies the minister happened to hold, and since we have a competent well-paid civil service in Ontario and civil servants who have professional standards to uphold, will the minister explain the exact meaning of his directive? Specifically, is he now instructing civil servants in his department to perjure themselves when going before agencies, boards or commissions in Ontario, if subpoenaed before those boards or commissions and asked to give their professional opinion, in the light of the minister’s statement that they are not to say it if it disagrees with him?
Mr. Smith: Mr. Speaker, might I redirect this supplementary to the Minister of Housing because it has to do with the other side of the same phone call and the Minister of Agriculture and Food has denied he knows who made the call.
Mr. Smith: All right. I will go back to ask the supplementary of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. We will find out later whether the Minister of Housing is willing to say who it is in his ministry who called in the middle of an OMB case.
Will the minister tell us whether the phone call he received that caused him to send the member for Elgin out to look at the land was from a man or a woman? Was even that something the minister was unable to distinguish over the telephone, although the call was apparently sufficiently clear that he would do something unprecedented in sending the member for Elgin out? Will he tell us whether it was a man or a woman who called?
Mr. Cassidy: Since the minister keeps trying to refer the credit problems of farmers to the federal government, could he explain why it is that Ontario is the only province that does not offer a long-term credit program?
Could he explain why it is that while Quebec has offered to provide credits worth $17,000 for every farmer, Nova Scotia has provided credits worth $11,700 for every farmer in that province, New Brunswick has provided provincial credits worth $9,000 for every farmer, and Alberta has provided credits worth $6,000 for every farmer in that province, Ontario has the lowest level of provincial assistance or credits to farmers of any province in the country and is providing only $1,199 in provincial government credits per farm?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, this honourable member is well aware that the government of Canada is the one that is responsible for the high interest that we have in all parts of our economy. He is well aware of it. I do not need to take up the time of this House restating it. What the other provinces are doing is their choice, but I would have to tell him --
Mr. Speaker: Excuse me, please, Mr. Cassidy. I would just caution all members once more. It is very difficult for me to pay attention and hear the questions and the answers with private conversations going back and forth. I would ask the members please to refrain and would refer them to the standing orders on the conduct of members.
Supplementary: Since the minister admits it is the choice of each province as to the kind of credit arrangements it offers to its farmers, could the minister say why it is that Ontario has made such a choice that it is now the stingiest province of any in the country in terms of providing credit assistance? Why is it that Ontario stood by with no further credit assistance when farm bankruptcies went up last year, and went up again by 46 per cent in the first four months of this year?
Why is it that Ontario has stood aside while the farmers of this province are being driven out of business? Why is that Ontario has stood aside and has not even ensured that the money provided under the Ontario young farmer credit program and the money provided under the interest rate relief program last year was, in fact, made available to farmers? When is the government going to start to protect farmers rather than drive them to the wall?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: The member is well aware that about 60 per cent of the budget we have for agriculture here in Ontario goes out in direct grants to farmers on the farm in forms that are different from those in the other provinces. So we have over $100 million in direct grants to farmers.
Mr. Riddell: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Could the minister inform the assembly what programs the Premier (Mr. Davis) had in mind when he indicated to the farmers at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture meeting last Thursday that the province would likely render some kind of assistance, but perhaps on a selective basis; or what programs the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) had in mind when he told the farmers that something would have to be done within the next two or three weeks?
Could the minister inform this assembly what programs the government may have in mind so that indeed we can start answering the questions of the many farmers who are contacting us? Some of them were in my office this morning very disturbed and wondering what is going to happen to them.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the honourable member would be good enough to go to his colleagues in Ottawa and first get our stabilization program straightened out so that we would know where we were. He supports his brethren in Ottawa in penalizing our Ontario farmers to the extent of $7 million in the hog stabilization program. If we even look at beef stabilization, what is going to happen to them? That is what is worrying my stabilization commission. What is Ottawa going to do? I believe --
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I am glad you straightened it out, because they certainly did not know what they asked. We will answer that question as soon as we can get a clearance from the federal government as to the penalties they are going to levy against us for anything we might do. It will be announced in the fullness of time.
Mr. MacDonald: Final supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The Minister of Agriculture and Food will be aware of the fact that as far back as two months ago the federation of agriculture made a specific number of proposals -- workable proposals in their view -- and prioritized them.
I have a two-part question. How can the minister go before the meeting, as he did last week, and have no response to that at all? And how can the Premier go before the meeting and lecture the federation on the need for making specific, workable, prioritized proposals when it has had those proposals for two months? What is the government going to do about those specific proposals? And, as my specific supplementary along with that --
Mr. MacDonald: Yes, I like to deal in specifics. Since the minister is going to be freed of $50 million on the farm tax rebate, more than a quarter of his budget, that $50 million will presumably be available. He did not expend $20 million of the $25 million on interest subsidization that he allocated before the election and cut out after the election. On the Ontario young farmer credit program initiated in 1975, he has spent only $8 million of the $25 million in the intervening years. Is it possible he might free up that $50 million, plus $20 million, plus $16 million or $17 million -- more than $80 million -- to come up with a program comparable to those of other provinces?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is trying to mix apples and oranges. He knows full well that tax rebates do not take effect for another year. He knows the Treasurer’s announcement starts January 1982. So that is $54 million. He knows full well, as does the Leader of the Opposition, if there is any opposition, that there was no allegation of $25 million for interest. He knows there were supplementary estimates for whatever the actual amounts were. He asked me three questions and I have answered two of them. What was the third one?
Mr. MacDonald: Two thirds of the money the minister set out in the program in 1975 for the so-called Ontario young farmer credit program has been spent in the six years since then. What about the other $16 million or $17 million?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: It is easy to understand the member does not recognize legislation when it goes through the House. The young farmer credit program is a guarantee of a loan; it is not actual dollars. My ministry had authority to guarantee up to $25 million through the original project. It was not spent in any way, shape or form. It was a guarantee only.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a new question for the Premier. He became aware of the uranium cartel for the first time last week, despite the fact that when his federal Conservative colleagues were in government they knew about it, despite the fact the Westinghouse cartel case began about five years ago and despite the fact the federal combines investigation branch has been investigating that uranium cartel for a number of years.
Since the Premier is now aware of the cartel and of the fact the cartel may be contributing to the $50 million we are spending in excess payments for uranium every year, payments above the world price, would the Premier say whether Ontario is seeking access to the information collected by Mr. Robert Bertrand in the investigation by the combines investigation branch of the uranium cartel, and will the government now seek legal advice on ways of rescinding the contract with Rio Algom and Denison Mines so we can get back some of the $50 million we are being overcharged every year for uranium in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think the leader of the New Democratic Party is making some personal judgements that are questionable. My recollection is that when he raised this question on Thursday or Friday -- some days after the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) raised the question, incidentally -- I observed I was not aware of that, nor am I at this moment aware of that. I have not seen any report. I have only seen what I have read in the press. I said that on Thursday or Friday of last week and I do not know any more today than I did then.
Mr. Cassidy: The Premier is aware that the existence of the cartel has been acknowledged in the courts. It has now been acknowledged because of the investigations by the combines investigation branch. Whether or not the cartel acted illegally is something that has not yet been established in the courts.
Would the Premier explain to the House why, when $50 million per year in payments by the consumers of Ontario Hydro is going down the drain in excess charges for uranium, or charges that may possibly be in excess, he is trying to wash his hands of the problem, saying it is not a reality and he is not prepared to have any action taken by the government to see whether we cannot get the money back for the people of the province?
Mr. Peterson: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Recognizing the Premier’s knowledge of this matter is limited to what he reads in the newspaper, does he not feel some obligation to inform himself of all the details, particularly with all the investigations going on about that matter at this time and the potential jeopardy he has put the consumers of Ontario into -- if not the Premier himself, then Ontario Hydro -- as a function of these contracts? Why would he not feel a very strong obligation to inform himself, and to make sure the consumers of Ontario Hydro are being well served in the circumstances?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member perhaps misunderstood my answer to the question. I made it quite clear I am not privy to any reports from the combines investigation branch. I have had no communication nor have I been consulted by any federal ministry or minister, including the member’s brother. I have to tell the member that this government does not have access, it does not involve itself and it is not our area of jurisdiction, with respect to combines investigation.
Mr. Cassidy: Since the existence of the cartel has been reported in the press over a number of years and not just in the last few weeks, will the Premier say whether the rest of the government and Ontario Hydro have been as ignorant of the existence and possible impact of the cartel on the uranium prices that Ontario is paying through Ontario Hydro as the Premier says he is himself? If there has been no effort by the Ministry of Energy or by Ontario Hydro to find out whether the cartel was working against the financial interests of hydro consumers in Ontario, can the Premier say what kind of stewardship that is on behalf of the people of the province, when neither the government nor Ontario Hydro was prepared even to make investigations to see whether the people in this province were being overcharged by millions of dollars for uranium?
Hon. Mr. Davis: My recollection is the select committee had some very real opportunity to discuss this whole issue. I answered this in reply to the honourable member last week, that the committee in its wisdom, for whatever reasons, accepted the judgement that it was a good contract on the part of Ontario Hydro.
Mr. Worton: A question of the Solicitor General, Mr. Speaker: The minister will recall our discussions of some 18 months ago in regard to the establishment of five-person police commissions. In view of the fact that he has had a resolution from the city of Sarnia, the city of Guelph and other municipalities, what position is he taking on the establishment of such a five-person commission and when can we expect it to be implemented?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I should say at the outset that I am not unsympathetic to the suggestions and requests made by a number of municipalities for an increase to five-person police commissions. The Police Act is being looked at with respect to a thorough review for legislation in the fall. I do not think there is any question but that there are many aspects of the Police Act that require review and we are at present engaged in this purpose.
If we are not ready to introduce significant omnibus amendments to the Police Act in the fall, then I can give the honourable member assurance that we will look very seriously at introducing limited amendments that might accomplish the purposes he has outlined, which we have discussed in the past.
Mr. Worton: Can the Solicitor General monitor the three-person police commissions now to determine where there is considerable absenteeism by members and perhaps appoint other persons to those particular positions -- and I suppose, specifically, a person with a legal background? I understand the comment of our local mayor was, “The situation is that in many cases a judge is tied up with a case and cannot attend the meeting.” From my experience on the commission, I think it is important that we do have a person with a legal background.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: The Ministry of the Solicitor General does attempt to monitor this situation. From time to time we do suggest resignation to individuals who find they do not have the time they would like to dedicate to their responsibilities in this respect. We will continue to do that, because we recognize frequent absenteeism on the part of any one member can be a problem for three-person police commissions.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. I presume the minister is aware of the snowballing concern of Ontario citizens who live in homes with urea-formaldehyde foam insulation and the hundreds of true health horror stories that are being told by these people.
If I may, I want to send to the minister a statement by Mrs. W. Feldberg of 111 Christina Crescent, Pickering, which lists extreme symptoms she and her husband have observed. He developed respiratory problems to the point where he coughed up blood and was admitted to hospital. The statement is accompanied by doctors’ letters indicating this was caused by formaldehyde gas.
Serious as these symptoms are, is the minister aware that the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended a ban, “primarily because of the carcinogenic properties” of the urea-formaldehyde foam insulation?
With all this overwhelming evidence, why does the minister refuse to identify the problem or to order tests of urea-formaldehyde foam insulation homes in this province, to say nothing of issuing health instructions on this matter to the people who have this problem?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, it amazes me the honourable member has totally ignored all that has been said on this subject in this chamber during the last month. The fact of the matter is that information has been transmitted to the health unit.
From some of the statements attributed to him and the things I have heard in this chamber, I do not think the member has ever read this report. The report points out that they are not able to identify a level at which they can say this substance is or is not a hazard. They go on to point out that, because they could not pinpoint a level, they recommend it be permanently banned after it had been temporarily banned last December.
We are pleased to note the federal government is finally going to act, after more than a month’s pressure from our government. Last Wednesday in the House of Commons, the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs was asked, I believe by the member for Vancouver East, Mrs. Mitchell -- after a series of questions and attempted motions over the previous couple of weeks by the member the Honourable Mr. Crombie, the Honourable Mr. McGrath and Mr. Lewis, the member for Simcoe North -- and finally said the government had set up an interdepartmental committee and would be considering certain specific measures at this Thursday’s meeting of the cabinet.
This is what we have been pressing them to do. That is where the responsibility is. We have said repeatedly we would do everything we could to assist them by making the resources of the provincial ministries and the local health units available. But we have also said they must accept their responsibility; they must accept the recommendations of their own expert advisory group -- which report I again ask the member to read -- and set up a program to identify where there is a problem and to rectify any problem specifically identified.
I am not concerned about what any American group may have or have not advised. At this point even the expert medical advisory committee of Canada was not able to advise a specific level at which it becomes a problem. They also went on to point out that in those cases where there may be a problem, it probably relates to the method of installation. Without the completion of the survey that the federal government has apparently undertaken, and without having a program they are apparently considering for retrofitting any problem homes, we cannot really get to the bottom of it.
Mr. Swart: Perhaps I can ask the minister himself to read that report and put the correct interpretation on it, because in an answer he previously gave to the House on this matter he came close -- and I use the word “close” -- to giving a dishonest answer.
I quote from Hansard of May 19, in which he quoted, “‘The committee is unable to identify formaldehyde as posing a significant acute threat to life, as concentrations to which people are ordinarily exposed are small and the effect treatable’.”
Will the minister correct his statement to this House, and will he give some indication of what kind of report is likely to come out on Thursday? My information is that all that is going to be announced at that time is a board of review to see whether the ban on urea-formaldehyde should continue; it has nothing to do with solving the problems of the people of this province.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, you can judge for yourself, if you want to read the report and look at my answers, as to whether I came close -- I love the choice of words that people such as the member use -- to a dishonest answer.
The fact is, and I said it again today, the report was not able to establish whether urea- formaldehyde is or is not a hazard at any particular point and, because of that, a permanent ban was recommended. The member might look at page six of the report. It goes on to say, “Such findings point to an undetermined risk of carcinogenesis, requiring ongoing study of carcinogenic processes in these animal models and reappraisal of human epidemiological data.”
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The honourable member asks if I know what they are going to come out of cabinet with this Thursday. The fact of the matter is, we know there are two Socialist parties in Canada, the Liberals and the NDP, and the member is probably closer to them. No, we do not know. We are pressing them to accept their responsibilities and to follow the recommendations of the expert medical advisory committee.
Mr. Sweeney: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Given the fact that there are people in this province who are moving out of their homes -- as a matter of fact, in Kitchener there are two families living in their backyards in tents because of fear of this -- and given the fact that it is the minister’s responsibility as Minister of Health of the province, regardless of who is responsible for having put the stuff in and whether it was put in correctly, and regardless of who is responsible for banning it -- that is not the point -- he is responsible for initiating a program whenever the health of the citizens of this province appears to be in jeopardy.
The minister simply cannot stand aside. If people are living in those homes and we are getting those reactions, where people are moving out of their homes, what is he, as Minister of Health, going to do?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, the program exists. It has existed for more than a century. It is called the public health system of Ontario. Every health unit in this province was notified very early on of the issue and of the availability of technical assistance. Every health unit is responding to citizens’ complaints. I acknowledged very early on that because of the way the report was handled by the federal government, just being dumped on the public, it left a lot of people scared.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: We simply do not have the resources to do thousands of homes overnight. But the health units have been doing a very good job in responding to the specific complaints and concerns as quickly and efficaciously as possible.
Ms. Copps: A question to the Minister of Labour, Mr. Speaker: Is the minister aware that 20 employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees were scheduled to appear on contempt charges in the Ontario Supreme Court today and, of those employees, 10 per cent come from a small Hamilton chronic care hospital?
If he is aware, does the minister feel that Hamilton workers are less law-abiding than other workers in Ontario? Does he not wonder why the percentage of those charged from St. Peter’s Hospital is unusually high?
Ms. Copps: Is the minister aware that not only are a large number of employees from St. Peter’s Hospital facing contempt charges, but also three have not yet been reinstated and are still in the category of “fired”? Is he aware that employee morale at St. Peter’s Hospital is extremely low, and will he order an immediate investigation into employee-employer relations at that hospital?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: As I have said on many occasions, I am well aware that there are some suspensions and discharges that still have not been resolved. I have pointed out on many occasions that a special advisory committee has helped to resolve suspensions in approximately 28 of the hospitals and that other efforts are ongoing at other hospitals. I have also indicated discharges can now be dealt with rapidly under the new grievance arbitration procedure in this province, and it is working.
On March 8, 1979, Jean-Claude Parrot, the head of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, at the urging of the minister’s agent, the crown attorney, was sentenced to jail for breach of an act of the Parliament of Canada. In the same year, Sean O’Flynn, the head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, at the urging of the minister’s agent, the crown attorney, was sentenced to jail for breach of an act of this Legislature.
On June 2, 1981, his agent, Crown Attorney Steven Sherriff, stated he would not oppose conditional discharges and community service orders for Michael Clarke, Max Seunik and Verne Jenkins, whom he euphemistically referred to as “three misguided executives of K mart,” after they pleaded guilty of conspiring in 1975 with a private investigator, Daniel McGarry, owner of the now-defunct Centurion Investigation Limited, to thwart the organization of a union at the K mart distribution and warehouse centre in Bramalea by a planned contravention of the Ontario Labour Relations Act.
The evidence established that K mart spent more than $167,000 to plant 16 undercover operators, hired by Centurion to gather information about the union’s organizing efforts, to find out the names of the activists advocating slowdowns and eventually taking part in a certification vote in September 1975, voting against the union and thwarting the certification.
What gives? Where is the justice? Is there one justice in his ministry for management and its executives and another justice for labour leaders, or is this simply another starkly revealed example of the consequences of the unacceptable gamesmanship practice of plea bargaining?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member for Riverdale that there is no different standard of justice when it comes to either management or labour that happens to be caught up in the criminal justice system. I am not aware of the details of the prosecution against the executives of K mart. I was not aware these gentlemen had even been prosecuted until the honourable member brought it to my attention.
Mr. Renwick: Will the minister instruct Crown Attorney Steven Sherriff to request the court to listen to further submissions from him about the obvious injustice of the position taken by the crown attorney in relation to past events related to breaches of the acts of the Parliament of Canada and of this assembly?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: All I can say is that I will review the matter with the crown law office and take what steps I deem appropriate having become informed of all the circumstances. I do not think the honourable member would seriously suggest that the Attorney General would act otherwise.
Mr. Ruprecht: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Housing. The minister has predicted that the Ontario rental construction loan program would stimulate construction of up to 15,000 new rental units this year, half of which, he told us the last time, are to be built in the Metropolitan Toronto area. Can the minister tell the House how many units have now been fully approved within the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto?
Mr. Ruprecht: It is a question, Mr. Speaker. The minister must be aware that not one unit has been fully approved in the Metropolitan Toronto area, where a rental vacancy rate of less than one per cent -- to be precise, 0.4 per cent -- means we must have new rental supply. Will the minister not agree that the program is totally ineffective in Metro? Will he tell the House what he is going to do about this?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: First of all, a week ago I answered the leader of the third party’s question, which was basically along the same line, as to the number of units that we happen to have made available to the development industry in the province through the Ontario rental construction loan program. I said very clearly --
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I am coming to Metro; the honourable member should be patient and wait. I believe there is more to this province than just Metro. Let me give that assurance to the Leader of the Opposition. I still say there is more to this province than just Metro.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Very clearly at this moment we have -- I said last week and I will repeat it -- in excess of 18,000 applications from across the province. We have in excess of roughly 13,000 units that have been approved by the Ontario Mortgage Corporation for loans to specific developers in many communities across Ontario. We have another 2,000 or 3,000 that are still waiting for review by the Ontario Mortgage Corporation.
I appreciate the fact that Mr. Richard Shiff, the president and chairman of Bramalea Limited, is again quoted in today’s Toronto Star. I guess it is well that we do have people like Mr. Shiff who continue to remind the public that there are some difficulties with interest rates even in the Ontario rental construction loan program. I said last week that we will be reviewing the situation. At the time we brought the $4,200 loan program into being it was a very well thought-out program by our ministry, and indeed was accepted by the lending institutions and the development industry.
To this date there have been 424 units that have been rejected in various parts of Ontario. In most cases it was because they could not reach agreement with the Ontario Mortgage Corporation on the amount of rent that would be charged in the initial year. There was a difference; the developer thought that he was entitled to a higher rent factor than the mortgage corporation was prepared to entertain. As a result, there are 424 units out of something like 13,000 that have been withdrawn at this moment.
I will say very clearly that there are others who have asked for a further period of time to review the economics of their projects and, indeed, to try to work out some of the site plan approvals and building permits that are required to commence with those projects.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Will the minister tell the House two things? First, can he give a sound prediction of how many houses or apartments will be commenced this year under the program? Second, will he tell the House, since the program was announced as long ago as four and a half months ago, how many units have actually been begun and in how many cases shovels have been put in the ground for this program? In other words, is the program real or was it simply a device to help get the Conservative government re-elected?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: No, Mr. Speaker, it was real. Bramalea has already started to develop and build some of the units in the Brampton area. Others are under construction. Some in the Scarborough area are under construction. I suggest that the member for Parkdale may want to review the situation.
It is simple for us to sit here and ask how many are under construction. I have indicated very clearly that a number of projects have been approved and in some cases must now secure building permits from municipalities. I am prepared to get the exact number of figures. It is simple for the members opposite to sit over there and snap their fingers and ask how many. It is a matter of our going into the field and securing the actual information on construction.
There are definitely some under way. I will not hide the fact -- and I reiterate this to the leader of the third party, if he will listen for a moment -- that there will have to be some improvements in the program we introduced back in January or February. There is no doubt about it. The Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) and I have already had some discussions on it.
It is great to sit over there and think we are not at least recognizing the fact that the federal government is allowing interest rates to climb to some unrealistic level -- not this government, but the federal government. When we first started going at the mortgage program, those rates were around 14.5 to 15 per cent. The friends of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Smith) in the Liberal government in Ottawa have allowed the interest rate to escalate completely out of all proportion to a home owner’s opportunity and for the development industry.
Frankly, without any assistance from our friends in Ottawa -- Mr. Cosgrove completely refuses to participate in trying to develop any kind of program that will deliver either ownership or rental accommodations in this community or in any other part of the province or Canada -- we are going to try to improve our program to afford the opportunity for at least 15,000 rental units to be in position within the next year to year and a half.
In view of the Premier’s remarks at the opening of Canada’s Wonderland, as reported by the Globe and Mail, that this was a “great day for Ontario and one of the things which brings us together as Canadians,” will he intercede with the Taft Corporation of Cincinnati, the owner of Canada’s Wonderland, which was built with some 60 per cent Canadian funds, to reverse that company’s refusal to carry on any further talks whatsoever with the unions that would represent some of the workers, including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Operators, the American Federation of Musicians, Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians -- an action that clearly antagonizes and divides Canadians?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think that question might be directed more properly to the Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie). I do recall making those comments when I was at Canada’s Wonderland, where I saw people other than myself, and I would make the same observation: I think it is a great facility. I am not one who uses the roller coaster and things of that kind, but I will discuss this with the Minister of Labour.
Mr. Mackenzie: I do not think it is a laughing matter. Does the Premier still believe that the actions of this company in refusing to pay decent wages or even to discuss the matter with any of the unions involved are compatible with the right of workers to organize in Ontario? Is this, as he stated, something to be proud of?
Hon. Mr. Davis: The honourable member is taking my statements in one context and trying to apply them to another, which I think is just a little bit unfair but not unusual. I agree that it is no laughing matter, and it was his own colleagues on the front benches who were laughing.
Mr. Kolyn: Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask a question of the Minister of Energy. His ministry has announced that the Urban Transportation Development Corporation will be getting $6.2 million to develop hydrogen storage and fuel systems. UTDC will produce two prototype urban buses fuelled by hydrogen. Since storage is one of hydrogen’s greatest problems, will any consideration be given to a prototype train locomotive?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, some initiatives in this regard were mentioned in the speech from the throne. Included in that particular address by the Lieutenant Governor was reference to the institute for hydrogen systems. I certainly feel that, as part of the evolution in the development of hydrogen research, that aspect ultimately will be given very serious consideration.
Does the minister agree with the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry), who is reported to have said he agreed with the federal plans to remove possession of marijuana from the Narcotics Control Act, which carries a criminal record upon conviction, and from the Food and Drug Act? Does she agree with this in the light of the fact that the Ontario Secondary School Headmasters’ Council has made strong recommendations against that movement?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am aware that the Attorney General has met very recently with the headmasters’ council to discuss this matter. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if this former school teacher, who perhaps has some real concern about discipline -- there should be some within his caucus at any rate -- were to redirect that question to the Attorney General.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I think the member is a little confused. The headmasters’ council has said on more than one occasion that it is very supportive of the position taken by the province in relation to this. I think there is general agreement that we do not want to saddle individuals, particularly young people because they are most often affected, with criminal records.
But, on the other hand, we believe strongly that simple possession, as it is often referred to, should still be treated as an offence but not one that leaves one with a criminal record perhaps for the rest of his life.
The federal proposals were originally along the line of some sort of ticketing where there would be no appearance in court; it would be something similar to paying a traffic ticket. We and the headmasters’ council indicated our concern about that, and the federal government rethought that aspect of the proposals.
There are ongoing discussions at present between the federal government and all provinces with respect to maximum penalties and to records that might be kept for repeated offenders that would not be criminal records as such. In all of these matters the headmasters’ council has been kept well informed of our participation. Having met with them as recently as this morning, quite by coincidence, I can say they are very supportive of what we are trying to accomplish in the interests of everyone. So I think the honourable member may be a little confused about just what the present state of affairs is.
Mr. Bradley: I have a supplementary question for the Minister of Education. My understanding of the position of the Ontario Secondary School Headmasters’ Council is not precisely as the Attorney General has stated it. They have been on record as opposing this movement, albeit there have been discussions with the Attorney General. The government is apparently ignoring their advice on that issue.
In view of the fact that the Minister of Education has recommended the removal of the strap as one of the ultimate methods of disciplining students in the elementary school system, contrary to the recommendation of elementary school principals, can she tell the House what new initiatives she has planned to destroy discipline in the schools of Ontario?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: That is the most illogical question I have ever heard in my life. It does not deserve an answer. But if the honourable member, who was a schoolteacher, believes that beating children is the way to discipline them, then I am glad he is no longer a school teacher.
Mr. Stokes: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. In view of the meeting last week that the minister and some of his colleagues had with the four grand council chiefs, will the minister place an immediate moratorium on charging of Indian people for violations of hunting, fishing and gathering? Second, will he have a review of all outstanding charges against those native people? Third, will the Ontario government recognize and respect the treaty and aboriginal rights of our first citizens to hunt and to fish? Fourth, for the sake of conservation, will the minister start negotiating with the native people for co-management of our fish and game resources in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Pope: No, there has not. In all of last year, 67 native people were charged with offences under the hunting and fishing regulations in place in Ontario, and from January to May of this year, 21 native people have been charged. So there has not been increased harassment at all. I reject that categorically.
Second, this matter of the hunting and fishing of native people and the policies of the government of Ontario has been fully documented time and time again by my predecessor, the Honourable James Auld, who tried to suggest at two different times two different compromises to the situation. He outlined to this Legislature on October 21, 1980, what his position was with respect to a proposed amendment to the Game and Fish Act, Bill 59. In actuality, he was replying to the concerns of the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick). In that address to the Legislature he stated the situation as the government perceived it to be in terms of the aboriginal rights and the treaty rights for our native people in both northern Ontario and southern Ontario.
I will not reiterate all that today but say again that it was October 21, 1980, on which he made that statement and it is in Hansard. He referred to a policy of leniency, about which he made a statement on June 18, 1980, and prior to that he had communicated with the native people directly on May 10, 1979, indicating how we did recognize treaty rights with respect to hunting and fishing for personal consumption. Of course, he did not recognize treaty rights to hunt and fish for commercial operation.
He did set out a policy of leniency that he wanted to apply and that he had instructed as a policy guideline for his Ministry of Natural Resources officers. He did implement a policy of leniency, which has been followed. He communicated that policy to the various native peoples’ organizations in this province. He has been, I might add, criticized by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters for that policy. They indicated in a letter of December 1980 to the minister that they thought all inhabitants of Ontario should have to obey all laws.
We have attempted to continue to implement this policy of leniency. We have attempted in various specific situations to work with the chiefs and inhabitants of reserves to give them licences that will meet their needs, including the right to market fish commercially. We have attempted on specific occasions to get into voluntary reporting arrangements; they have failed. With respect to charges, we have attempted in a couple of instances to negotiate, and have been negotiating, with the chiefs of a couple of bands to clean up the underlying problems that led to the laying of those charges. We think, in one or two circumstances, we are on the verge of settling those matters.
We believe we do have something in common. We both share an ethic for conserving our fish and game in Ontario. We are both interested in establishing some objectives based on some form of data to implement that ethic. We are also looking for a way of policing that. I have asked in three different meetings with the grand council of Treaty 9, with the organization we met last Thursday, and prior to that with the Cape Croker band, for some indication as to whether they accepted our statistics, because we have studies showing that Shoal Lake and Lake of the Woods are in very severe danger because of overfishing.
We have asked whether they accept our statistics, and if they do not, what information they have available to give us to help us establish goals for conservation. We have asked for an indication from them on how they think these goals should be administered and specifically how band members can be policed.
I think this is a positive basis upon which the native people of our province and the government can build. If we can set aside all the preconditions and all the hangups and get to the common beliefs we share, we can bring about some common goals, some common limitations on catch and kill, and get together on the administration of a system that will meet the requirements of not only the native peoples but all the people of the province.
Mr. Stokes: Probably my final supplementary, but it is only the first one: Call it harassment or whatever, but is the minister aware that his conservation officers are going on to reserves in northern Ontario and have charged a single parent, a woman who heads a family of native people, who went out and harvested 60 pounds of fish so she could convert them into dollars to feed her family?
Is the minister saying that is not an appropriate use of the resources that are indigenous to that particular reserve to help those people become independent and provide the basic needs? Is the minister aware his conservation officers are actually doing that? Is he saying in his answer that the fishing resources that are indigenous to a particular area are not to be used for the financial and economic wellbeing of our first citizens?
Second, I am not aware of the specific case the member is alluding to today. He previously asked a question about a similar concern with respect to the practices of the personnel of the Minister of Natural Resources with respect to an incident on Lobstick Bay on Lake of the Woods on May 7, 1981. I don’t want to deal with specific cases because it may not be fair, but I can say in that situation the fact of the matter is that a statement given at the time indicated not only who this native person was selling his catch to, but the price he was getting for it. There is no doubt there was a commercial operation going on.
We can’t adopt a hands-off policy with respect to the fishing stock of northern Ontario. We have to be concerned about conservation and we know that our concerns are shared by the native peoples’ organization. That is why we have to look for some way of policing that system.
Mr. Swart moved, seconded by Mr. Cassidy, pursuant to standing order 34, that the ordinary business of the House be set aside to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the serious health and economic problems faced by Ontario residents whose homes have been insulated with urea-formaldehyde foam and the urgent need to identify, test and solve these problems.
Mr. Speaker: I would just like to advise all members of the House that the notice of motion was indeed received in time and does comply with standing order 34. I will be pleased to listen to the honourable member for up to five minutes and to members of the other two parties for the same time as to why they think the ordinary business of the House should be set aside this afternoon.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, you will be aware of the meeting in Peterborough, if no one else is, and there can be little doubt that serious and widespread health problems are being experienced by persons living in urea-formaldehyde foam insulated homes. The federal government’s April 23, 1981, ban on the further use of foam has focused new attention on it, but the dangers have been internationally known for years.
The National Research Council paper of April 1981 states, “Exposure to formaldehyde can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing and asthma-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and nosebleeds. When sensitized, a person may suffer serious reactions at very low concentrations. High levels of formaldehyde have been found to cause nasal cancer in laboratory animals indicating that humans should minimize their exposure to the gas.”
The five public meetings in this province on this issue held during the last month show hundreds or thousands of people are suffering these symptoms. If there is still any doubt about the people being affected, I can display dozens of cases I have in my files.
As serious as all these symptoms are, the worst is the danger of cancer. The proposed ban by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission said, “It is based primarily upon long-term carcinogenic properties of urea-formaldehyde foam insulation.”
The health problems and the dangers now have been documented to a degree where this government must no longer ignore the existing or potential health problems of 100,000 or so Ontarians living in these UFFI housing units.
The province’s Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) has a responsibility. Section 4(d) of the Public Health Act leaves no doubt. It states: “It is the duty of the ministry and it has power to determine whether the existing condition of any premises ... is a nuisance or injurious to health.” It also has the duty and power under subsection (g) to “make orders and give direction for the correction of unacceptable conditions.”
It is now almost six months since the federal government acknowledged the health hazard by instituting a temporary ban and then confirming that ban in April. In those six months the Ontario government has made no moves to identify the homes with UFFI, to have testing done of all such homes or to determine the health of the occupants of those homes. Many health departments, which are the agencies of the ministry, perhaps the majority of them, will not even take tests when requested. In my very brief checks I found out that Ottawa, Scarborough, Kitchener-Waterloo and London do not do any testing, and many additional ones do not even have equipment to do it. No directions or help are given to home owners by the government through pamphlets or in any other way.
For these formidable reasons it is essential that it be debated now before the summer recess overtakes us. Plans should be finalized quickly for removal of the foam or other remedial action so it can be done during the summer when buildings can be adequately ventilated. Residents subject to high levels of formaldehyde gas should not go through another winter season under those conditions. The debate in this House is necessary now too because there are no other vehicles for dealing with it. The estimates of the ministries of Health and Consumer and Commercial Relations will not take place until fall.
There are other dimensions to this UFFI issue where debate is urgent. Houses with UFFI are either unsaleable or have a tremendously depreciated value. The property assessment on which the owners pay taxes should be lowered immediately; similar, for instance, to the 25 per cent reduction which has been applied in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Immediate consideration should be given to a law in this province similar to Massachusetts whereby the foam industry is required to buy back and remove the UFFI where occupants or former occupants suffer or have suffered adverse health conditions.
Certainly the responsibility for action does not rest solely with the provincial government; the federal government is involved too. But the debate here is necessary to tell the federal government this province expects it to act quickly in concert with us. The debate is essential too to tell the people of this province that this government intends to abide by its own public health laws if something is not done on this issue today.
This is a crucial and urgent health and environmental issue. The numbers of people affected are many times the numbers involved in the Love Canal episode, for instance, that we in the Niagara Peninsula and the rest of Ontario have heard much about. We do not know yet that the health hazards are not every bit as serious as they were in the Love Canal. It needs to be debated now.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I clearly and strenuously support the contention put forward by the honourable member that the matter in his motion dealing with the formaldehyde pollution resulting from improperly installed insulation should be debated in this House. It is for others, presumably at the federal level, to be as critical as they want of the inadequacies of federal policy in this connection, but certainly the actions of our own Minister of Health have been grossly inadequate and more than disappointing in this situation.
I have followed the various questions and asked a number myself of the minister and his colleagues as the matter evolved following the announcement by the federal Minister of National Health and Welfare in April that there would be a permanent ban. I would agree with those who have criticized the federal government that the statements made by the minister and the ministry in Ottawa have been seriously inadequate. They indicated there would be a full survey and that there would be some retrofitting program announced.
We can be critical of them, but at the same time, the Minister of Health has indicated in this House as well as he could that he was trying to get on top of the problem so he could instruct his officers at the regional and district levels as to what actions to take. I feel the minister has unfairly tried to allay the concerns in the community and in this House without having any reason to take that course of action.
I cannot help but support him when he says we should not resort to a panic response and perhaps to comments about cancer and comparisons to the Love Canal approach or situation. Still in Hansard of May 4, the minister very properly indicated his own concern. He said he was contacting Madame Monique Bégin, federal Minister of National Health and Welfare. He said, “If I do not have an answer in a day or two, I will get back to her in order that we can all be clear, in all the provinces, on what the federal government is going to do to correct this matter.”
There is nothing unfair about that except his words indicate that in a day or two he was expecting some clear indication from the federal level as to what action would be taken. There has been no clear indication. It seems to me clear, however, that under the provisions of our standing orders the matter proposed for discussion does relate to a genuine emergency, calling for immediate and urgent consideration.
It is true the ban goes back to April, but we have been under the impression that the Ministry of Health here, if not on top of the situation, was taking clear and well-understood steps to accomplish what had to be done. There is certainly no indication to the public or the members of this House that such steps have been taken. There is simply more delay. Whether or not blame for this can be put on the government of Canada is irrelevant.
The member for Welland-Thorold is perfectly correct that under the Public Health Act it is the responsibility of the minister, with the support of this House, to call for the funds needed and to provide the people and equipment to monitor the situation in those homes where there may be the kind of environmental stress that has been described and which we certainly fear.
I feel the rules would permit, and in fact call for a debate of this nature. I wish it were possible under our rules to indicate eventually by our vote what should be done to allocate funds to solve the problem.
I am very much struck by the statement made by the honourable member that the decision should be taken before we leave this House, because during the summer steps must be taken by the medical officers of health and others to protect Ontario residents.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I think it is evident from the statements by members from all three parties, those who have asked questions and those who have answered those questions over the last five or six weeks, primarily myself, that we are all concerned about this matter.
The report prepared for the federal Minister of National Health and Welfare probably leaves many questions unanswered and perhaps even poses as many questions as it answers. In that report they clearly state that from the examination of all the current literature, they are not in a position to state at what point urea-formaldehyde- --
At the time the report was introduced, we immediately drew to the attention of the federal Minister of National Health and Welfare the deficiencies in the action she had taken on that report. Because they were not able to identify a point at which formaldehyde gas becomes a hazard, they make certain recommendations about medical examinations of people who might be affected by exposure to it.
They went on to recognize they were overstepping the limits of the terms of reference under which they were working and recommended that once the federal government had determined the extent of any health hazard, it establish a program for retrofitting those residences in which such a hazard might exist.
In that telex we further pointed out to the minister that we do not have the resources at hand to do all that work immediately but we would make all our resources at the provincial level and through the health units available to them. We have kept the pressure on them, virtually on a daily basis, and I asked for and got the co-operation of a number of members of the House of Commons to raise questions and to try to present motions for similar debates in that chamber, which is the chamber where such a debate should take place.
Specifically, I would like to thank the member for Simcoe North, Mr. Lewis; the member for Rosedale, Mr. Crombie; the member for St. John’s East, Mr. McGrath, and the member for Vancouver East, Mrs. Mitchell, who have pursued this matter in the House of Commons. I may say that notwithstanding that, we were not able to get an answer. As it turns out, we were not given this answer from the office of the Minister of National Health and Welfare until the day she returned. Apparently she had been in Geneva for a couple of weeks. We were not told that. We were just told the matter was under advisement and they would get back to us.
Last Wednesday, the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Mr. Ouellet, said in answer to a question, and I quote, “The matter is under review by the interdepartmental committee and within a few days we shall announce a series of measures that will specifically meet the expectations of the people and that will indeed allow us to assess the exact extent of the problem.” This is exactly what we have been pressing them to do. This is exactly what we have been telling them we are prepared to help them to do. On Friday of last week, June 5, Mr. Ouellet went on to say that announcements will be forthcoming following the meeting of the federal cabinet this Thursday.
I submit we have been doing everything possible within our power to address this particular concern. It is a serious concern, if only because people do not know -- I acknowledge that, and for that matter, scientists do not know -- any specific answers to some very specific concerns. But we have submitted ways to arrive at those answers to the federal government. We are more than prepared to help them work on them.
The place for any emergency debate is in the House of Commons, not in the Legislature of this province or of any other province. I invite members to do everything possible to assist us to keep the pressure on the federal government, so that we will get from them a program we can and will co-operate with to do exactly the things we, and the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk, want done. It is not a matter of passing the buck; we are quite prepared to share in the solutions to people’s concerns and problems to the extent of the resources we have available.
One further observation: I have been pressing for the whole of this session to have the estimates of the Ministry of Health considered in standing committee in this spring session, which would have afforded 20 hours to discuss at length any and all of these concerns --
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that both opposition critics asked that those estimates not proceed this spring. I submit this is not an appropriate occasion to exercise rule 34(a).
Mr. Speaker: I do not know whether your hearing is defective or my microphone is turned down, but I did call the orders of the day and I did go through the routine proceedings. I recognized Mr. Boudria because he adjourned the speech on Friday. Proceed, Mr. Boudria.
Mr. Boudria: I will try again. Members will recall that last Friday we spoke for a certain amount of time on the bill. I notice that the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) was nodding a minute ago in recognition of the fact that we spoke at some length on the legislation. I only have a few brief things to add. The Minister of Revenue will perhaps be glad to hear this because I am sure many other members want to have their input in telling the government just what we think of that particular legislation.
I just have a few more quotes from certain speeches that I would like to read out to explain to members how this is a complete reversal of the government policy we have had for the past four years, which coincidentally was while they were in a minority position. I am sure this is only a coincidence, Mr. Speaker, and the March 19 results have nothing to do with this particular ad valorem gas tax. Or do they?
I will read again a portion of the speech that was read by the then Minister of Energy (Mr. J. A. Taylor) in 1977, who incidentally is over there listening. I will read the following portion of the speech. It says: “Mr. Speaker, if the government of Canada once again hikes the price of crude oil it will be the fourth year in a row in which the Ontario consumer has been duped in the name of ensuring security of supply.”
“The public has a right to expect the government of Canada will reduce that special tax and relieve the consumer of this unnecessary burden; either that, Mr. Speaker, or the right to know where that extra tax money is being spent, and what contribution it is making to the future energy supplies.” Of course you know, Mr. Speaker, that this ad valorem gas tax does nothing to reinforce a continuing energy supply. It is only there to fill up the coffers of the government at this time.
I will just read a little bit further in the last part of the speech. It says: “Our economy and the average wage earner simply cannot afford another oil and gas price increase.” These are the same people, the same government -- granted, a different minister; the former minister is no longer in the position that he was then -- but nevertheless it is the same government that is telling us now that this gas tax is good for us.
It seems that nobody else agrees this is a good tax. I suppose it is customary for people not to like taxes of any kind but these comments are not coming from the general population. Many journalists have expressed strong reservations with this particular legislation. I am reading today an article from this morning’s Ottawa Citizen by Orland French. The headline, by the way, of this particular article is “Tory Arrogance Returns.” I will read part of it. It says:
“Perhaps the best example of arrogance goes back to the election campaign. You can’t blame the Tories for sucking in voters with a vague request to help keep the promise, but you can blame them for an implicit pledge to hold down taxes, and then bringing in a budget with more tax increases than Ontario has seen in years. Most cynical of all, and perhaps the most dishonest in view of the implied promise to hold down taxes, is the ad valorem tax imposed on several items including gasoline.”
“Before the election, Davis fought valiantly against fuel price increases on the reasonable grounds that higher prices would depress Ontario’s economy. Now his government profits from rising fuel prices. The fuel tax is taken at 20 per cent of gasoline prices so that every time the price of gasoline goes up a nickel a gallon the Ontario Treasury takes another cent.
“Even the government profits from inflation. From a political point of view, the beauty of the ad valorem system is that the government does not have to introduce and justify higher taxes in every budget. Tax revenues rise automatically with inflation.”
Perhaps the reason this is being introduced at this time, in the first year after an election, is that in three or four years when we have another election the government will not have to increase taxes in an election year. There is an automatic tax increase for them which is there forever. Politically speaking, this may seem to be a good thing to do, but I suspect the people will remember this four years down the road -- if it is ever implemented.
I still feel the government should withdraw this tax. A few weeks ago when this was introduced the conditions were not the same as they are today. We had not witnessed the hike in the price of gasoline announced by the federal government last week --
Mr. Boudria: I hear the honourable member across the way talking about the federal Liberal government. But I could talk about the provincial Tory government in Alberta which they cannot agree with. There is one of each in that circumstance. We can throw the ball back and forth.
Here is another article, from last Friday’s Toronto Sun -- it is by another very learned journalist, Mr. Claire Hoy -- that I would like to quote from; it headed “Could Bill Win With Oiltario?” This article discusses the possibility of the Ontario government trying to pack their coffers to buy an oil company. It mentions the possibility of buying Texaco.
I wonder whether there is any validity in this article. Maybe with the extra money they are raking in, this is what the government wants to do. Of course, we do not know. Some cabinet ministers are denying it; some are being noncommittal. We just cannot figure out what their position is. We can only see some of them grinning, some of them chuckling, but most of them not saying anything. Nevertheless, Mr. Hoy thinks we could have an Oiltario here.
I do not know whether we would have the gas pumps operating with a slot machine type of handle. If one pulled the handle at the right moment, he might win a free tank of gasoline, or something like that. I suspect either way the people will lose in this type of venture.
I am looking at a cartoon that I believe came from an issue of the Globe and Mail last week. There is a double toll booth, the first booth being operated by what seems to be Mr. Lougheed and the second being operated by Mr. Lalonde. As one passes the second toll booth there is a gentleman hiding behind it with a baseball bat to clobber the consumer on the head. It says right on the baseball bat “ad valorem.”
Of course the gentleman in the cartoon is our Premier. They are trying to bat our consumers on the head; that is what the cartoon tries to illustrate, and it is quite true. This is exactly what is happening. Our consumers are being hit right across the forehead with something of the magnitude of a baseball bat. We cannot withstand that kind of a blow. It is especially detrimental in rural areas and areas of eastern Ontario.
I see the honourable member for Leeds (Mr. Runciman) sitting across the floor. Like myself, he is a member from eastern Ontario, and he too should be very concerned about this tax. His area -- unlike the area represented by the member for Ottawa South (Mr. Bennett), who is just leaving the House -- does not have OC Transpo, the TTC or any of those kinds of rapid transit facilities. He is in a situation similar to the one I am in, in that constituents of both ridings are having to pay that tax whether or not they like it. Having an automobile in a rural constituency is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
What makes it even worse is that in areas with high unemployment, such as my constituency, and in areas where people tend to have a lower income, people often cannot afford brand-new automobiles that get 50 or 60 miles to the gallon. Many of them are still driving their 1973 or 1974 model cars that get 12 or 13 miles a gallon. With that kind of consumption, they cannot afford this taxation. It should be defeated for that.
Just one last cartoon -- it seems we bring cartoons into this discussion quite often. I do not know why. It is somewhat inappropriate, because that kind of tax is certainly not funny. Nevertheless, one has to read the underlying messages that sometimes are in these cartoons.
We have here a caricature of the Premier sitting at the Albany Club. We see a telephone that says “Albany” on it. We see the Premier allegedly in deep thought. The deep thought goes like this: “Problem: Do past promises take precedence over present promises or should present promises precede past promises? Ah, proclaim prodigious future promise to preclude all past promises. Perfect! Paltry predicament.”
This is another example of the media, the journalists, telling us that the government again is reneging on the promises it has made to the people over the past four years to keep energy prices at an affordable level. It has not not done that. It has betrayed the electorate of Ontario and especially the people of rural Ontario who have to pay these high prices for gasoline.
An article in the Ottawa Citizen one day last week said that this latest round of price increases in gasoline will bring an extra $40 million to $50 million in tax revenue to the government of this province. This is $40 million to $50 million the government did not even think it was going to collect two or three weeks ago. If it did not need that $40 million or $50 million two or three weeks ago, how on earth can it justify levying that tax now if it did not even think it was going to get it just a few days ago?
Mr. Boudria: I just heard somebody talk about the roads they are going to build in my riding. It is an interesting question that was asked by the honourable member over there. If the honourable member had been here last Friday, he would remember --
Mr. Boudria: If he was, perhaps he did not listen to my speech at that time. I illustrated to all members of this House, in reading from the briefs submitted to us by the Ontario Motor League, that the motorists of this province are paying more than their fair share at this time. They were paying more than their fair share two years ago, and they are paying even a greater proportion in excess of their fair share with this new ad valorem taxation.
It is fine for the honourable member to tell us they need that money to build roads in my riding. The roads are not efficient in my riding, but I suspect they do not intend to take those extra $40 million or $50 million to put them there. I doubt that very much. The five-year forecast of capital expenditures by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications for my constituency does not include any major work at all.
It was only a few weeks ago that I met with the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow) to try to get a passing lane installed in an area of heavy industrial growth in my constituency, an area where several trucks have to drive alongside Highway 17 in the area near Hawkesbury. That was refused.
Mr. Boudria: The honourable member to my left is suggesting that they must have three cadavers per mile. There are far in excess of three cadavers per mile in the area where these road improvements are needed.
Nevertheless, that does not have much to do with the substance of the gas tax, with the exception, of course, that if they intended to levy that $40 million and $50 million to repair the roads in my riding I am sure the people in my riding would wholeheartedly agree with that. But I do not think that is the purpose for which those funds are being levied.
Those funds obviously will be levied to pay some of those expenditures that we saw during the course of the last election -- some of the “Preserve it, conserve it” advertisements that we heard every 30 seconds on radio and television; some of these “Good things grow in Onta-ri-ario” that we heard in the last election campaign, or the French advertisements that were made en francais in my constituency to try to tell my constituents how this government had done everything that they ever imagined could be done for the francophone community of my riding. Those funds will obviously be used to pay for those expenditures. They will not be used to construct roads in my constituency; I am sure they will not.
Just to sum up: I am sure that honourable members on both sides of the House will think very seriously of the impact this legislation has on the people of Ontario and of the effects it will have on our economy. Cabinet ministers have been telling us time after time that it would have a disastrous effect on our economy. I would be surprised if they even had cabinet solidarity on that particular legislation. Surely they could not have that when half of them have spoken against that legislation in the past.
We in our party are not going to vote for this bill, and I hope the honourable members on both sides of the House will defeat it. Then we can go on to legislation that we should have for the people of this province, and stop taking up too much time on this legislation, which should never have been introduced.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, I want to spend a few minutes speaking to Bill 72, which is the bill before us to amend the Gasoline Tax Act, 1973. This is the first opportunity I have had to comment in this chamber about the budget. I doubt if in the course of the time I have been here I have ever encountered a budget as cynical and as unresponsive to the actual needs of the people in the province as this budget.
The capacity of the government to diffuse its tax increases and to express them in cents rather than in dollars leaves the great bulk of the members of the public unaware of the total impact of the budget that has just been presented for the province. Whatever the mix should have been or whatever the economic theory may have been behind the budget, I want the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) to understand that it is totally unacceptable in a riding such as the riding I represent. It is our responsibility -- it is my particular responsibility in representing the Riverdale area -- to try to bring home to the people in the province what has been done in the taxes that have been levied by the government.
I do not need to be a mathematician -- and I am not a great one -- to work out very simple arithmetic for the impact of the government’s proposals on a family of four in Riverdale riding with an income of $15,000 a year. On that basis, one can calculate that they will pay something in the neighbourhood of $73 a year for income tax, $72 a year for increased Ontario health insurance plan premiums, another $30 a year -- on a conservative estimate -- in the tax that will be imposed under Bill 72, and, as it is in Riverdale, a modest consumption of alcohol and cigarettes will add about another $22.
Adding the $73 income tax increase, the $72 OHIP premium increase, $30 more for this tax and an extra $22 for beer, alcohol and cigarettes on a yearly basis -- they are very temperate people in my riding -- the total dollars taken out of the pockets of the people in Riverdale, using my example of a family of four with an income of $15,000, is $200. The people in my riding cannot afford that. I want the government to understand that the people in the riding of Riverdale cannot afford that kind of levy. It may be different in other jurisdictions or in different parts of the province, but not in Riverdale.
I am unalterably opposed to the methods the government has used to distribute the tax burden in the province, to raise the additional revenues it may or may not need -- one never knows, and that part of my position I want to make very clear. I may have an opportunity in the budget debate at some distant time to talk at some greater length about it, but one of the ridiculous parts of the procedure of this House is that there is no focus to the budget debate. We will not actually vote on the budget until next Christmas. One of the procedural changes that must be made is to give it an immediate focus.
If we give an immediate focus to the throne speech, which usually contains nothing of any consequence, then we certainly should give an immediate focus to the budget after it is presented, to be able to treat its full impact in a general debate.
I want to turn now specifically to the bill before us. When my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) was speaking on Friday -- and I am quite certain a number of other members have made the same point -- he raised the fundamental question of the abdication by the assembly, in the way the government has produced this tax, of an opportunity to comment further upon it.
It is quite likely that the 20 per cent levy, with the inflationary price of gasoline, will remain the basic levy for a considerable period of time. That will mean this bill will not again come before us for debate. One might almost certainly say that for the life of this Parliament this is the last time we will be talking about this bill. There will not be an occasion when it will come before us again. That is because the government has chosen to change from a flat rate to an ad valorem rate for the imposition of the tax.
There may have been an occasion at one time in the past when life was relatively stable and an ad valorem tax made some sense or had some particular traditional value. But I say to the government that this is the wrong time to use an ad valorem tax. As has been said by many of the speakers in this debate, when an ad valorem tax is combined with a high and continuing inflationary rate in the economy, the government is buying into the inflation spiral. That is all it is doing. It cannot be justified in any other way. That point must be emphasized.
We had the same problem in a somewhat different context with OHIP premiums. They are not subject to debate in this assembly. In that sense, we have abdicated our responsibility. A year or two ago, when my colleagues fought on the question of the last increase in the OHIP premiums, we tried to get the matter back in front of the assembly so that every time the government announced an OHIP increase it had to bring legislation into the assembly. Indeed, there was a very real question as to whether it was a tax and could only be levied by the assembly when an increase was proposed. To our chagrin, our position on that was not accepted, and we are again in the position where we have little, if any, opportunity to discuss the OHIP premium increases.
This bill is before us for the purpose of implementing the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) in his budget: “I am proposing the following specific tax increases...First, that the new ad valorem tax rate on gasoline be set to incorporate an average increase of about one cent per litre and the new tax rate on diesel fuel be set to impose a 1.1-cent-per-litre increase. There will be no specific increase for railway diesel fuel and aviation fuel.”
The same arguments, with a lesser impact, apply to Bill 73, which deals with the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Act, as apply to this bill before us. I say to the minister, the best information I can get is that of the total oil consumption in Ontario, 55 per cent is used for transportation. When that 55 per cent is broken down, it shows that automobiles use 57 per cent, trucks use 26 per cent, air is seven per cent, rail is five per cent and marine is four per cent. One can readily see that the automobiles and trucks on the highway account for a significant proportion of that 55 per cent -- not all of it, but practically all of it, because the air, rail and marine share is a mere 16 per cent.
We are not talking about something that is negligible in the economy. We are talking about a scarce resource that is becoming extremely expensive, and more than 50 per cent of our total consumption of it in the province is used for transportation. That is what the government has decided to tax to get in on the game. They have given up, as they have given upon all of the other issues. It is not their responsibility. Their responsibility is to get a percentage of the take. That is what I meant when I said the budget is a cynical budget. It seems to have no regard for the fundamental tax that is imposed upon an essential for practically all of the people in the province, and that is the tax on gasoline.
When one looks at the budget and at the way it is going to be implemented, we find that the Treasurer states in his appendix to the budget: “The tax rate on gasoline will be established at 20 per cent of the retail price determined by the Minister of Revenue. The 20 per cent tax rate applicable to each grade of gasoline will be 5.4 cents per litre of regular gasoline, 5.8 cents per litre of regular unleaded gasoline and six cents per litre of premium leaded or unleaded gasoline. The retail price of gasoline, to which the 20 per cent applies, will be adjusted on a quarterly basis beginning July 1, 1981.”
In looking at the way the government has decided to impose that tax, I could not help but recall the position taken by the Premier (Mr. Davis) in the major statement he made in this House on October 31, 1980, the day after the Premier of Alberta had announced the impending 180,000-gallon-a-year reduction in production in Alberta, of which the first 60,000 was on March 1 and the next 60,000 was on June 1 of this year.
It is interesting that the statement made by the Premier at that time could bear repetition today, because he talked about the difficulties of the federal government and the Alberta government reaching agreement on something called a Canadian price for Alberta crude oil, the price that would be paid to provide that province with a justified return on its particular diminishing resource.
He opened his remarks simply by reciting the difficulty of the two governments in reaching an agreement, and of course we are in the same position now as we were on October 31. As I understand it, the Honourable Mr. Lalonde, the federal minister, and the Honourable Mr. Leitch, the Minister of Energy for Alberta, will be meeting this week to try again to resolve the question of an acceptable price between those two governments.
The Premier in his statement cited the obvious at the end of his remarks by stating quite clearly: “The government of Ontario has neither the authority to set oil prices nor to control the production of oil.” The government is taking a matter that is entirely out of its control and applying a tax to it on a percentage basis. It is simply saying, “Whatever the take is going to be, we are going to get it for the government -- but from the people of Ontario, not from anybody else.” This is not a redistribution of revenues accruing to other jurisdictions in Canada and coming back to the province itself through the system.
The Premier also stated: “While no direct threat is posed to security of supply for Ontarians or Canadians, it will add a liability of $1 billion to the oil compensation fund in 1981 and $1.8 billion in 1982, based on present world prices.” I will come to those world prices in a moment. “This will add to the national deficit and the debt load carried by all Canadians.
“This new compensation burden for more foreign oil would require an additional increase of $2.70 a barrel by 1982. This would, as a result of the liability created by Mr. Lougheed last evening, increase the cost to the consumers of Canada by an extra four and one half cents to five cents a gallon in 1981 beyond those increases already planned for.
“The impact of last night’s statement is economic. It imparts an extra financial burden upon an already tight national economy. This burden is not being imposed on Canadians by any foreign power or by any international collapse but by a Canadian provincial government.”
“It is both sad and of deep concern that one provincial government, presiding over what is the most rapidly expanding economy in the country, should respond to a continued and prolonged disagreement by imposing deep economic penalties on the working men and women, the pensioners, the businessmen and the people of Canada.”
I think it speaks for itself. The government of Ontario has said, in its own cynical way: “We are going to add to that burden. We are going to add to the burden this decrease in the production of oil in Alberta is imposing upon the working men and women, the pensioners, the businessmen and the people of Canada. We are going to add to it because we are going to take our part of that rise. We are going to participate in increasing the burden on working people.”
I say to the minister as clearly as I can that, with respect to the tax in this bill, it is unacceptable in the riding of Riverdale. People are extremely patient, but in talking politics to anyone around they will ask, “When are the people in the country, in the province, in the riding of Riverdale, going to say enough is enough?”
Is this government playing catch 22 with the people of Ontario? It denies any responsibility for what is happening to the economy. It tries to foist the responsibility on to either worldwide conditions or the Canadian government. It has created the impression among the electorate of Ontario that it has little, if anything, to do with matters of interest rates, inflation or the cost of living; that there is nothing it can do about them. At the same time, it goes into the pockets of the people and takes out the funds, which relates to its abdication of responsibility with respect to those fundamental problems.
I do not know how long the government can have it both ways. I expect that perhaps between now and the next election, given it is four years, we will be able to indicate to the people that this kind of government must cease. We cannot afford the luxury of a Conservative government any longer in the province because every time it chooses the wrong people to tax.
There is not a single, solitary tax in this budget that has been imposed upon the people of Ontario that has any significant element of progressiveness to it. There is very little in this budget that says those who have can pay more than those who have not. That fundamental aspect is one for which the Minister of Revenue is not responsible. That is why I say the budgetary process in this House is quite ridiculous. I can understand the Minister of Revenue standing up and saying: “My responsibility is the collection and administration of the tax imposed by the act. I am not responsible for the policy, except as one member of the government.”
While the Treasurer is responsible for the policy, he rarely bothers to be in the House when any matters related to his fiscal policy are up for discussion in the assembly. If one kept a clock watch on him, one would find he had been here a negligible amount of time from the evening when he stood before the klieg lights in this House and delivered that budget address. We have been preoccupied to try to bring some of our concerns to the floor of the assembly. I would like to think somebody in the hierarchy of the Treasurer’s ministry reads Hansard and perhaps indicates to the minister matters which are of concern, but I doubt very much that that takes place.
The Premier said Premier Lougheed of Alberta should not be imposing deep economic penalties on the working men and women, the pensioners, the businessmen and the people of Canada. Let us look at the world price and see the extent of the inflation his government is participating in, Mr. Speaker. I am not going to go back to September 30, 1973, with respect to the Alberta wellhead price in Canadian dollars for a barrel of crude oil and the world price at that time in US dollars for the standard benchmark type of oil, the Saudi Arabian light crude oil. I will select the date of July 1, 1978.
Interestingly, that was a time when the Canadian dollar, although not at par relative to the US dollar, was close enough to make the exchange differential less significant than today, so the prices are comparable. On July 1, 1978, the price of a barrel of Alberta oil at the wellhead was C$12.75. The world price was US$12.70. They were practically equivalent at that time. The price that was being paid for imported oil was about the same as the price being paid for Alberta oil. What happened then? On July 1, 1979, the Alberta price was $13.75 and the world price was $18. On January 1, 1980, the Alberta price was $14.75 a barrel and the world price was $26.
Then we come to this interesting device of blending. We see the inflationary impact, of which we are all aware, coming about in the price of oil. In figures, on August 1, 1980, the Alberta wellhead price was $16.75 and the world price was $30. The so-called Canadian price -- that is, the blended price, the petroleum compensation charge which was intended to blend the higher prices for foreign oil to the domestic price for crude oil -- the blended price on August 1, 1980, was $18.50.
On January 1, 1981, the Alberta wellhead price was $17.75, the world price was $32 a barrel and the blended price was $23.80. Now it is expected, and there may be some additional charges to alter that price, that on July 1, 1981, the Alberta price will be $18.75, the world price will be $32 -- as yet I have not heard of any change in that price -- and the blended price will be $26.10. In six months from January 1, 1981, to July 1, 1981, the blended price will have gone up something in the neighbourhood of $3.50 to $4. In the preceding few months it went up another $5.
When we translate that as per-barrel price increases over that short period of time into the price at the pump it should be possible to understand clearly the inflationary impact this government has added by going to an ad valorem tax.
I do not know whether I can express anything further that will add to some kind of understanding of what the government has done as reflected in the Riverdale area. I believe the government consistently has not necessarily understated, but has certainly played down, the effect of this tax. They have tried to indicate somehow or other that it is really not all that important, that they are just getting some kind of small share of it. As the Treasurer himself has acknowledged, the average family will be paying $30 more this year. Our best estimate is that in 1982 the same family will be paying an additional $80, and our best estimate in 1983 -- probably low -- is that it will be $106.
If that is the magnitude of the increase that the people in the province are being faced with by this government, then the House can understand the progressive concern that we have, because this tax will never come before us for consideration again. We will not be here when the taxpayer in Riverdale is paying the additional $80 next year and the additional $106 the year after.
The minister knows as well as I do that varying projections indicate the $30 this year for the average family for the period this tax will be in force on the changed basis may amount in 1983 not to $106 but perhaps to substantially more. The people in Riverdale cannot afford to pay that kind of tax.
It is not as if this is a negligible part of the revenues of the province. Again, the minister and others speaking for the government have tried to indicate it is a relatively small part. Motive fuels taxation is shown by the Treasurer in the appendix to his budget to count for six per cent of our own source revenues for the province. How much does that work out to? In 1980-81 it is $751 million. If one adds on the $135 million that the Treasurer estimates for the rest of this year, one is up to $886 million. By this time next year that will be well over $1 billion.
I think it is quite clear the government is saying, “We are going to get our share of the inflationary spiral with respect to the price of fuel in this province, and we really do not care a lot about the impact it has on the individual citizen who must pay the tax.”
I close my remarks by saying that to me it is cynical. I cannot possibly, nor can the Premier, rationalize the statement he made on October 31 last year, which does not need to have a single word changed to be applicable today. He said it is both sad and of deep concern that one provincial government, presiding over the most rapidly expanding economy in the country, should respond to a continued and prolonged disagreement by imposing deep economic penalties on the working men and women, the pensioners, the businessmen and the people of Canada.
To me it is both sad and of deep concern that the government of Ontario, under the leadership of the Premier who made that address last October, has decided to impose a deep economic penalty on the working men and women, the pensioners, the businessmen and the people of Canada. He is doing this by translating the gasoline tax into an ad valorem tax -- by hooking the price to the spiralling cost of fuel.
What was the alternative? It was the obligation of the government to protect the people against that additional economic penalty. The way it could have done this was to have left this taxing statute alone. At least it should have left it where we left it in 1979 -- at 4.6 cents per litre. It should have said that until the price disagreement between the federal government and the Alberta government was settled, until there was some sense of stability in the fuel market in Canada, it was not going to impose any additional taxes. It should have said that to the extent it was in its power it was going to protect the electorate against that kind of tax.
I personally do not understand it. I guess we will never really have an opportunity in this House for the Treasurer to stand in his place and try to answer any of the criticisms that have been made. I guess we will always be subject to this pretending that it really does not matter. It is just as on budget night when they ask somebody on the street what he thinks of the new Ontario budget and he replies, “Oh well, a few cents here, a few cents on cigarettes, a few cents on liquor, a few cents on beer, a few more dollars gone on OHIP, a little bit more out of my take-home pay when I leave work is not going to matter very much, because I do not really believe that government at Queen’s Park has anything to do with economics.”
Their tradition has been to take no responsibility for the economic condition of the province, that Ottawa has something to do with it. We happen to believe there is a responsibility on this government, here and now.
I stand with my colleagues in this party, and I am glad to say with the members of the Liberal Party, in asserting that this should not have been done however else the revenue needs of the province may have had to be met and whatever economic theory motivates the Treasury -- and God knows, I do not know what the economic theory is that motivates the Treasury, if there is one. I certainly do not need to bow my head to the economists these days, nor does anybody else in this chamber, about knowing what goes on in the world of economics. So I have no hesitation in saying the government is wrong, this is an atrocious tax and it is not an acceptable one.
I do not know when the people in the province are going to say enough is enough, that they are not going to have the tax collector coming and dipping into their pockets for a few cents here, a few cents there, a few cents every time they turn around. It all adds up to a minimum in my riding of $200 for a family of four. That is what the government took out of their pockets on budget night, and we in this party are dedicated to putting that $200 back into their pockets as quickly as we can.
We are concerned for people who are earning in the marketplace, where they have little if any bargaining power, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $15,000, $16,000, $17,000 and $18,000 a year. God knows, that is not an exorbitant amount of money these days in this society, but in my judgement that represents the average of the people in the Riverdale area. I say to the minister, while he is collecting the tax, I hope he understands that the people in Riverdale can’t afford it.
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, I join with the previous speaker, the member for Riverdale, and prior to him the member for Prescott-Russell, the member from our party, and others who are trying to get the same message through -- not only to the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe), who I am afraid is carrying the pail for some of his colleagues, if not all of them, but also to those faceless civil servants who with their input, expertise or whatever it is to the ministers, to the cabinet, come up with such plans that we find unacceptable and that the people in the riding of London North find devastating.
I realize full well that there are three or four of these people sitting in the gallery. Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, if my words slip by you over to them, I hope they get the message. I hope they get the message as indicated by the previous speaker that we in the riding of London North have had it. It is time someone stood up, if not a whole lot of us stood up, and said, “That’s it. We aren’t going to take it any more. How long do you think you can get away with pillaging the people of London North and the other ridings in this province as you are intending to do with this unacceptable gasoline tax?”
I say that as loudly and as clearly as I can, with the fond hope of waking one or two of those civil servants up to the fact that we are not going to take it any more. They can smile, some of them, and walk out of here and say, “Well, that is fine; we are carrying on with our job and we will keep passing this type of recommendation on to the minister or ministers.” But let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, there is a day of reckoning coming. We in my riding aren’t accepting it, and as we proceed with this debate and debates like it, because the members opposite are not going to get away with it, they will finally, I hope, get the message that the people out there are hurting and they are the ones who are hurting them.
It is fine for them to shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, it is your colleagues in Ottawa.” What about the government’s colleagues in Alberta? We could throw that one out if it were meaningful or if it were going to help to provide a solution. We could try to provoke the government members with that kind of counter-argument. But I would submit it is sort of unproductive to proceed with that kind of debate, because solutions are found, by and large, through looking in one’s own camp or cleaning up one’s own house. That is the place where the province of Ontario should begin; it should start cleaning up its own house. It is not doing that by passing this regressive, oppressive tax on to the consumer in Ontario.
I had a difficult time as I read the explanatory notes. It sounds so simple. The first paragraph or two say, “The bill implements proposals in the Treasurer’s (Mr. F. S. Miller) budget that the tax on gasoline be established as a percentage of the retail price of each grade or type of gasoline, as determined by the Minister of Revenue after periodic sampling of retail prices from time to time paid by the consumers.” Good grammar, easy to understand until one starts looking at the implications.
The notes go on, “The bill makes provision for the minister to alter the price on which the tax is based so that the increases and decreases” -- I would love to see a few of the latter, but I am afraid I won’t and I would have to submit that whoever wrote that had his or her tongue far into his or her cheek -- “in retail prices can be reflected by a corresponding change in the tax payable.” Again, that sounds rather simple.
I don’t want to take the time of this House by reading what we all have sitting in front of us -- it would not be a good exercise -- but then one translates that, as all of the media did, into however many dollars it is going to take from the average consumer. Our own newspaper in London submitted it had heard from a Treasury spokesman that the impact for the average motorist had been estimated to be only $31 for the year. But as they reworked the numbers it came out just a little bit higher than that. Now the grim reality of this regressive tax is in fact setting in on us and we are realizing it is not just a $30 potential we are looking at, but we are looking at $200 or $300 -- as the member for Riverdale pointed out -- for an average family of four.
We have indicated through our finance critic and others in our party that we feel this change in the gas tax to an ad valorem base means the government now has a vested interest in seeing the price of oil increase, since every time the price goes up, so does the government’s take. In fact, the 20 per cent tax on gasoline means the government of Ontario, which gave the impression at least of fighting bitterly against any increase in oil prices by Alberta, will now profit more than Alberta from those increases. We call this profiteering. It is a tax we simply cannot accept.
I think it is fair to say that the history of mankind is full of taxes, and the people, in spite of not liking them particularly, have been able to survive or put up with them. We can go back to the Bible and find references to the tax collector. People generally seem to have something built into them that will let them accept oppression or dictatorship. I would submit to the House that that is almost the attitude we are seeing here in Ontario from some people, that we really do not have a democracy here, we have sort of a benevolent dictatorship operating under the guise of a democracy.
At times, too, we accept such oppression, we accept such a discipline, if you will, that a tax brings along with it. If we perceive there is a need to have that to survive, at times we are inclined to accept it. I would submit the people of Ontario probably could accept this if they felt they were going to find some kind of solution or even if they were addressing the moneys they were handing out to the defeat of some kind of enemy. We did this in the war; everybody pitched in because there was that common enemy.
We do have a handful of common enemies here in Ontario, as we do right across Canada right now. We have the enemies of inflation, unemployment, fuel prices, and I could go on with sundry others. I think we could probably accept this gasoline tax if we felt it was being used -- that is the revenue that is coming in through the honourable minister’s coffers -- in some fashion that would address itself to the fuel crisis.
But as one takes a look through the budget book, as one takes a look through the other documents that the government is using to prop up its dictatorship, do we find anything in the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development program that addresses itself to finding solutions to our energy crises? I would submit to the minister that he could read that thing backwards, forwards and sideways and not find a solution in that wonderful document.
The same thing applies again to the budget. There simply is not a solution there. I would hope when we conclude that the Minister of Revenue or the Treasurer, or whomever, would stand and tell me, “Van Horne, you are wrong. We do have a solution and here it is. This is where all of this wonderful money is going to be placed.”
Mr. Van Horne: I would submit that this gasoline tax isn’t going to direct a penny to meeting our energy crisis here in Ontario. I would offer, Mr. Speaker, that what we look for is an alternative. If the money were being used to come up with that alternative, we would surely be delighted. Given the fact the government is apparently going to get these funds in spite of our protestations, in spite of our talking against the bill, what would be wrong with directing some of its money to an alternative such as methanol?
In addition to researching ways of mass producing what we in our party feel is a good energy alternative, something like methanol, what would be wrong with taking some of those moneys from the gasoline tax and looking at the effects of other energy alternatives on plant and animal life? Is there anything in government research right now, research it is doing independently or in concert with our universities in Ontario, to find an alternative? Is anything being done to assess what those alternatives might be doing to human and plant life if in fact one brings them on stream?
At the base of those questions is the concern that we in our party have for a government that is governing this province without any blueprint or design. A course has not been charted for the citizens of Ontario. The province is like a ship without a rudder in the middle of a lake or an ocean, floating about without any kind of direction except to respond to the winds of urgency that come through public reaction. A course has simply not been charted. Ontario needs more than that.
As I indicated, our party has come up with an energy alternative. We have presented our paper. People in the Ministry of Energy are aware of it. Quite candidly, without getting into the various recommendations in that rather lengthy paper, many of the government staff would agree with what we are suggesting as an alternative. If the government were going to bleed from the people of Ontario the few dollars they might have left after it has taxed everything else except the air we breathe, and address some of those dollars to solutions, maybe we could accept that; but we are not getting any of those solutions.
What we are getting is the old smoke and mirror show, a convoluted, double-barrelled, forked-tongue approach to the people in Ontario. Whenever we stand in the House to question the energy policies or tax policies, we are accused of having no influence with our federal colleagues. The federal government is accused of being the source of all the problems. The government does not for a minute seem to want to support its fellow Conservatives in Alberta, except perhaps to be able to hop into bed with them and make a fast buck whenever it can.
A couple of years ago the government accused us of attempting to encourage world oil prices. My leader’s words have been twisted around, his words have been taken out of context and he has been repeatedly misquoted in the last couple of years, up to and including this last election campaign, in what he was talking about in terms of oil prices.
I am quoting part of an editorial article in the Globe and Mail headed, “Repeating What Was Never Said.” It reads: “The Ontario Liberals have never supported world oil prices. In the five years since the statement above was released, the Liberals have developed their oil policy further. Last Monday, Dr. Smith described some of it. On oil pricing he said, ‘It is crucial that Alberta and the federal government come to a compromise.”
I could go on to read the entire article, but I simply want to make the point that what we have received from the government is again the forked-tongue approach of accusing us of certain things relating to oil pricing and the federal government of not being able to get along with the government of Alberta, while at the same time as it is being critical it apparently is determined to take advantage of a crisis by adding an ad valorem tax, which would effectively make it guilty, if anyone is guilty in this country, of profiteering.
I am suggesting there is a history of taxation and, it would seem, a history of people being prepared to accept taxation if they can see -- even if it is just surviving from day to day -- some reason for having that tax imposed. I submit too that the only way we could accept it in my riding or in our party would be to see the funds forthcoming from it placed in programs that would develop alternatives. Again, we do not.
Within this last week, all members of this House received a rather complete document from the federal government entitled “Energy Alternatives.” A few moments ago, I made reference to our own party here in Ontario having its energy alternative statement developed a couple of years ago. Both of these are examples of what can be done.
I have to ask the Conservative government here in Ontario why it is not doing something. What is it waiting for? Is it waiting for us, the federal government or some other body to come up with a solution? It has the mandate; what is it doing? When I ask questions like this, either privately or publicly, I am afraid the answer comes back to me a blank.
About a year or so ago, the Premier (Mr. Davis) of this province was speaking to a group known as the Ontario Municipal Electric Association, which is coupled with another branch of utilities called the Association of Municipal Electrical Utilities of Ontario, the professional branch on one hand and the elected people on the other. What the Premier asked -- and we were concerned at that time again about energy -- was that these people submit to him whatever initiatives they might have to find an alternative for a crude oil product.
It is commendable that the Premier would go out and solicit input, but it comes through as a sort of offhand solicitation, not unlike the Treasurer of the province a few weeks ago stating that he had some concern about Ontario health insurance plan premiums and he would welcome any suggestions that people might care to call in, mail in or fling at him as he walks down the street. What kind of an approach is that to solving problems? To me, it is a slipshod way of approaching major concerns in this province. The OHIP premiums are a major concern. The whole funding of health care is a major concern.
At the same time, the energy crisis is a major concern. What is the government doing about it, aside from applying this tax? The essence of the energy problem facing the developed economies of North America, Europe and parts of Asia is the increasing scarcity of conventional energy supplies.
Canada consumes more energy per capita than does any country in the world. In Canada, we are the major province in terms of population, industrial needs, consumer needs and commercial needs. We have it in spades here in Ontario. One would think our government would address itself to finding solutions to problems of that magnitude. But we are getting virtually no action.
I want to conclude my remarks by going back to the suggestion I made at the beginning. I represent the riding of London North. London proper has a population of more than 250,000 people. The city is fairly evenly split into three ridings. The roughly 70,000 people I represent speak to me fairly regularly. When it comes time to vote, they have as good a voting record as any other constituency in this province. They take elections seriously. As a matter of fact, four years ago tomorrow, on June 9, 1977, they went to the polls and chose to send me to represent them here, because they felt they had someone who could speak on their behalf. They chose to do the same thing a couple of months ago.
Between that first election and now, I have the distinct impression there is growing unrest. It would be easy and partisan to say it is strictly the Conservative government that is the source of our problems in Ontario, but my people are a little fairer and more perceptive than that. They do not want to lay the blame solely and singularly at the feet of the Conservative government of Ontario, although I think that government has to accept the responsibility for the kind of tax we are getting.
The people I represent see a malaise coming from or originating in a rather insensitive civil service and a political process that has been allowed to go on too long without change and that, for a variety of reasons, has grown to be insensitive to the needs of the people of Ontario.
If we are elected to represent the people of our constituencies, to speak on their behalf and to be part of a party process, we cannot, on either count, let a tax bill like this be introduced without saying to the government loudly and clearly, “Enough is enough.” It is profiteering at its worst. If the government needed money, and obviously it does, it should get it by some more direct or more honest tax. It should not be done this way. We simply cannot accept it.
The people of London North are saying loudly and clearly, “We are proud in London North. We are proud to be Ontarians. We are proud to be Canadians. Do not treat us like slaves with this kind of unacceptable tax.”
A few years ago, John Bates, editor of Bus and Truck Transport magazine, pointed out in that professional journal that energy taxes are one of the most repressive and regressive forms of taxation; they affect the poor and the middle class much more severely than the rich. That same gentleman, when I was speaking to him on the telephone the other day, pointed out to me that he and many other business executives have a way of passing on additional gasoline and fuel taxes to their employers.
In the riding I represent, one of the major industries is the trucking industry. This bill affects that industry in a very direct and immediate way. It means one of three things: Either it means lower profits in an industry that is not noted for excessively high profits; alternately, it means lower wages for those in the industry; or more likely it means higher costs to the shippers, who in turn must pass it on to the consumer. Every time shipping costs go up, it affects in a real way the single parent or the wage earner at the supermarket.
Another way it affects the working middle classes is that it is increasingly difficult or impossible for all but the relatively affluent or those who may have bought their homes some time ago to live in the downtown areas of cities such as Metropolitan Toronto. The Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett) refuses to admit that, but any survey of the real estate market indicates that is the case. It is those who live in the suburbs of Toronto, such as Mississauga, Peel or Rexdale, who are hit by this particular tax in Bill 72.
They are the people who bought the North American dream, the model, if you like, of the 1971 or 1975 Chev station wagon with the smiling children in the back seat. They are the people who, because of the high inflation and interest rates, are not in a position to buy the more compact cars. So there they are, getting 15 miles to a gallon if they are lucky and being hit in a direct way by this bill. Unlike those in the more affluent areas, they do not buy a car every year or every second year. Unlike those in the more affluent areas, they do not have employers either to supply cars in some cases to write off on expense accounts or to pay for the gasoline they are using. It is those families that are being hit by this bill.
There are no alternatives for the construction worker living in my riding who travels along Highway 401 to work on the job site, which may be in Scarborough. He leaves at 6:30 or at six o’clock in the morning when public transportation to the particular site may be nonexistent; if it is existent, it may take him some time to use, or, if he is carrying tools and other equipment it may not be available to him.
He is in a triple squeeze. He cannot afford to buy a more efficient car at today’s interest rates. He cannot use public transportation, because the service is inefficient or he lives and works in an area where public transportation does not go in any easy way, such as if he lives in Rexdale and works in Mississauga, and yet he is the one who is being hit. In addition, being a wage earner but not a corporate executive, he has no way of passing on these extra fuel costs to an employer or to the public through higher consumer costs or to the government through a tax deduction on his income tax.
This bill is not only repressive, it is also hypocritical. As a Toronto Star editorial pointed out -- I will read a part of that editorial -- “Miller’s new approach to taxing gasoline sales is unjustified and highly objectionable. By moving from a fixed rate to a percentage of the sales price at the pump, the Ontario government will reach deeper into the consumer’s wallet every time prices go up. That’s inflationary. Pushing up the retail cost of gasoline will only compound the cost-of-living pressures already generated by rising energy prices. It’s socially cruel. It will add to the burden of low- and middle-income earners already hard hit by inexorably rising fuel costs. And it’s hypocritical. The Davis government has rightly been pressing Ottawa not to allow energy prices to increase at more than absolutely necessary, and now it’s raising the cost of gasoline itself to boost its provincial revenues.”
It is important for us to understand exactly what this bill does, not only in the short term but also in the long term. The method of tax computation was modified from a fixed rate to a percentage or ad valorem basis. The rate of tax now is set at 20 per cent of the taxable price.
The impact of this Ontario gasoline tax on retail gasoline prices from 1978 to June 1981 is very interesting to look at. On an annual basis, it is estimated that this tax will provide $135 million in additional revenue. Since the Ontario gas tax now is computed on a percentage basis, the amount of tax will increase and the retail price will rise as gasoline prices rise under the federal energy pricing program.
The Ontario tax will be computed and the price adjusted on a quarterly basis, beginning on July 1, 1981. For example, on June 2, 1981, the federal tax on gasoline increases by 1.6 cents a litre, or 7.3 cents a gallon. This tax simply translates into an eventual increase in consumer gasoline prices of 2.1 cents a litre, or 9.5 cents a gallon, as a result of the additional effect of this measure.
When the Ontario tax is adjusted on July 1, it will add 0.03 cents per litre, or 1.4 cents a gallon, to the retail price of gasoline. It is estimated that this tax increase will generate an additional $40 million to $50 million in revenue annually for the provincial government over the original revenue estimate of $135 million.
Based upon the present schedule of petroleum price increases in the national energy program, the Ontario percentage of gasoline tax will increase as follows: in 1981, 5.7 cents per litre, or 25.8 cents per gallon; in 1982, 6.3 cents per litre, or 28.7 cents per gallon; in 1983, 6.9 cents per litre, or 31.4 cents per gallon; in 1984. 34.1 cents per gallon; in 1985, 36.9 cents per gallon; and in 1986, 41.3 cents per gallon.
Those may be conservative estimates because when the energy price agreement is reached between Ottawa and Alberta, if that happens, gasoline prices most likely will increase at an even quicker pace. Therefore, what we are forecasting is an even greater rise than the rise I have just quoted.
There are a number of very specific things that we in this party and I, as the representative for Etobicoke, find extremely objectionable in this bill. This tax increase in itself is inflationary since it will lead to even higher oil prices in Ontario than those provided for under the national energy program. This Ontario tax will be computed on top of the federal or Alberta price increases and therefore amounts to a provincial price escalator. Every increase in energy prices further compounds the cost of living to the ordinary people in this province.
Over the past two years, gasoline prices in the Toronto area have gone up at a rate more than double the general inflation rate. This Ontario tax will aggravate future price increases and constitutes profiteering from inflation. This provincially generated oil price increase will undermine the Premier’s long-proclaimed campaign against rising prices for domestic oil.
It is easy for the Premier of Ontario to campaign against Premier Lougheed of Alberta and the federal government when there is an election on or an election coming, but it is interesting how he joins these people after the election is over. That is why this bill is so hypocritical.
Whatever reason the government has for collecting more taxes, this is not the way to go; this is the most hypocritical way and manner the government possibly could have devised. This tax now, and when it is eventually passed by their majority, contradicts Ontario’s stand over the last couple of years.
The tax enables the government to collect revenue windfalls from oil price rises. With a new majority and an election at least four years away, the government is using this tax as one means of raising revenues without any argument as to why it should be done in this manner.
This tax is harmful to our parliamentary traditions -- my colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) dealt with this earlier since the Ministry of Revenue will be authorized to raise gasoline prices every three months without consulting the cabinet or, indeed, reporting to the Legislature.
This government has shown in the last few weeks how arrogant it can be with a majority. But this is an arrogance against parliament, and not against the Liberals and the NDP. It is an arrogance against parliament and the people of Ontario.
We on this side of the House might have been able to see some reason in this kind of tax had the government come forward with some innovative energy conservation program or if the government had even shown it was willing to tax other sectors of the economy such as the corporations.
This is merely a way of taxing the poor and the middle class and ignoring the others. With this bill, the Ontario government gets more revenue from each gallon of gasoline sold at the retail level than does Alberta. This tax will widen the differential.
This bill would be more acceptable if there were any proof higher prices would somehow promote conservation. The fact is that in case after case of studies in Europe it has been shown that a higher price for gasoline has not in itself promoted conservation.
Seven different studies have shown this in the European experience and, in looking at the experience of the administration of former President Carter and that of President Reagan, there is every reason to believe that is true in the United States.
What makes this government think the construction worker in my riding who must commute to a job site in Mississauga will in any way have any means of driving fewer miles or indeed of not driving his automobile? There simply is no proof of that. I challenge the government to table any study that will indicate that.
During and just before the election, there were attacks on the federal government’s energy policy by this government on the grounds that it was taking money out of the pockets of the working people. They even had quotes to that effect by the Treasurer.
If we examine the promises made by the Conservative government in the last election, we see who is contributing to the inflationary process. We see who is acting as Santa Claus. Indeed, if we take each year from the Honourable Mr. Robarts on, and look at the amount of money spent through promises and the number of giveaways in the year just prior to an election, we see that it is that bunch over there that acts as Santa Claus.
How hypocritical they are that they talk about the other parties as adding to inflation and then they bring in this bill. If ever there was a bill that will add to the fires of inflation, it is Bill 72.
This government, with this budget and this bill, is fanning the flames of inflation; and it is doing it in a recurring way. They are not happy now just to spend a lot of money the year before an election on whatever, no matter how unnecessary some of these things are; now they want to keep the fires of inflation going by having an ongoing, recurring form of inflation in the form of this tax.
This bill is unacceptable to the people in the riding I represent, it is unacceptable to the small businessman who must drive his truck day after day and who must pass on this cost to the consumers. It is unacceptable to the wage earner who has no way of passing on that cost to anyone. It is unacceptable to the average, middle- and working-class person. It is an attack on these people.
Over the past number of years, the present Premier (Mr. Davis) has spoken about oil price increases and so forth all along the line as though he was supposed to be the champion of those in Ontario who thought we should at least keep a restraint on it.
Of course, we all know what he did over the last couple of years. In 1979 and in the 1980 federal election, in his inimitable way of kind of smiling and being nice to the people of Ontario, he said he was fighting for them to keep oil prices down.
When the famous budget was presented in Ottawa, including the 18-cent tax on fuels of all kinds, he came out very strongly against it and against his party in Ottawa which was proposing the major increase in the excise tax.
I guess he even went so far as to write to all the federal members of the Conservative Party who were sitting in the House in Ottawa at that time to tell them that they should vote against that famous tax.
He brought in this bill after he picked up a majority -- by whatever way he got it, and that is another matter, which I suppose I covered at some length in my throne speech. I think he was indirectly letting on to the people that he would keep the promise, that he would keep taxes under restraint, that he would keep his budget under restraint. I am pretty sure people were under the impression from the way he was conducting the campaign that taxes would not be raised.
One can accept an increase in taxes if it is done in a fair and equitable way. We all admit that oil and gas prices are still going to go up because we know about the situation in Alberta, where Mr. Lougheed continues to screw the valve down every three months and puts us all in a real bind so that we have to import more offshore oil and pay a higher price. That offshore price does look a little better now, but it is considerably more than we are paying Alberta. I think Mexico announced a decrease of $4 a barrel in oil prices last week, and I see that Great Britain just announced a $2 decrease in the price of its oil on the weekend.
We all know that the price is going to go up under the circumstances of a new agreement they have been trying to thrash out between Alberta and the federal government. In fact, a very important meeting is coming up between the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources for Canada and the Alberta Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. Some reports are that Alberta’s price will go up by about $4.50 a barrel each year for the next three years. That would bring it up to around $32 a barrel, it is $17.50 now.
We have been collecting about 4.4 cents per litre. Under Bill 72, it is raised to 5.4 cents per litre. As the price goes up under the new agreement with Alberta, whatever it may be, including, of course, the latest price increase last week, the increase of nine cents from Ottawa, it means that at today’s price at the pump the new price increase, according to what the bill says, is 5.6 cents per litre for unleaded gas, 5.4 for regular and six cents for premium.
I bought gas on Sunday at 40.4 cents a litre for unleaded gas. Maybe I should not have bought it on Sunday; maybe I should have bought it on Saturday. After I got my tank filled, I figured out that taking the five cents off the 40.4 I paid brings it down to 35 cents odd, and 20 per cent of that comes to seven cents. So since this bill was printed, at 5.8 cents the tax has already gone up 1.4 cents. Of course, the bill was given first reading on May 19. I call this ad valorem tax an inflation tax; I call it a grab on inflation. Our country is suffering too much from inflation now to have such a tax put into effect.
We know that 1980 was the first year in which Ontario has reduced its consumption of gasoline. In 1978 and 1979 we were increasing it by about four per cent a year, but last year we did go down. Most people are aware that the United States has been decreasing its consumption by about two to three per cent a year for the last three or four years.
The Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) is saying if consumption is going down he is not going to have the same amount of money for highway expenditures and whatever else this money is used for. The majority of it is put back in for highway repairs, municipal roads and so forth.
What concerns me is that the government is going to get a considerable increase every three months. It is like the old age pension and the Canada pension that goes up every three months. The government’s intake in taxes is going to go up every three months too. We know the senior citizens’ pensions go up a certain percentage each three months; now we have the province joining in the inflation cycle. I can envisage the gasoline tax going up somewhere in the vicinity of 60 to 70 per cent in the next three years.
The bill increases the tax from 4.4 to 5.4 cents per litre. I can agree with that much. I know the Treasurer has to find new funds when expenditures go up, and we all accept that. We accepted that in minority government for five years when Treasurers gave a decent reason for raising taxes for certain things. When one tried to put OHIP rates up 37 per cent, naturally we could not accept that. It was too large an increase.
That was probably too much too, but at least it was minority government working properly. That is what it is all about. I thought that was reasonable. I would accept the one-cent increase in this bill, but not the ad valorem aspect which increases the tax every three months according to the pump price of gasoline. I suppose it is something the Treasurer is looking at to increase his revenue, but we do not know whether he is going to pass the increased revenue along to the municipalities and the municipal road system.
We have country roads in the county of Essex that were formerly provincial highways. In 1970, the then minister, Mr. Gomme, turned 50 or 60 miles of provincial highways over to the county of Essex, making an additional burden on the county. The roads have still not been rebuilt. Normally, the agreement with the province when it turns a highway back to a county or regional municipality is that the province will rebuild it. In this case, the then Minister of Highways did not do that; he just gave them back to the county and we had to accept them. They are worse now than when he gave them back to us. They are in terrible shape.
If the Treasurer, through the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow), intends to turn this money over to the municipalities to assist them in taking the burden off the local taxes to keep roads up, that is another matter -- if we were sure he was going to do that. But we are not sure he will do that; so we have to object in a very strenuous way.
What really concerns me is the mileage a car gets now. We have modern cars now which are much more efficient when it comes to gas consumption. In my own family we have cut our consumption of gasoline by about 25 per cent in the last couple of years by buying cars that are much more efficient in gasoline consumption.
I was talking to a neighbour who has a 1975 model. It has a good-sized motor -- it is a heavy car -- and he gets about 16 miles to the gallon. He and a neighbour were comparing cars. The neighbour said he was getting 26 to 27 miles to the gallon, but he had bought a new car. That is quite a difference. In my area the average driver drives about 11,000 miles a year. He is going to consume about 440 gallons a year if his car is giving him around 25 miles to the gallon, while another neighbour, who is getting 16 miles to the gallon, is going to consume about 700 gallons. The fellow who really cannot afford to go out and buy a new car is going to pay considerably more for gas with the higher tax, which puts him down the hole worse than ever.
Probably we could all accept this bill if everybody could replace their old cars bought prior to 1976. I suppose they could maybe handle this tax increase. I say to the minister, who is smiling, that 1970-75 model cars are good cars that stand up and will run indefinitely, though they need a little paint on them. A fellow was telling me the other day about his. He said, “I keep replacing the equipment on it because I can’t afford to buy a new one, and yet it uses all that gas.” It is very difficult and it costs him a lot of money.
That is why we cannot support the ad valorem system under which we are encouraging and causing inflation, especially when we look at the statements -- many of them have been repeated and I do not want to do that -- made by the Premier (Mr. Davis) or the then Minister of Energy (Mr. J. A. Taylor), who said on May 11, 1977, “I vigorously oppose any increase in the price of crude oil.” Crude oil is gasoline eventually. The government is putting it on right now and adding it to the inflation cycle, yet that was what was said four years ago.
Here is a another statement: “The three cents a gallon reduction in the federal government excise tax on gasoline is welcome news,” the Minister of Energy said on August 25, 1978. That was Mr. Auld. Energy ministers change over there pretty often. They seem to change about every six to 12 months. Some of them do not last that long. The provincial government was very happy when the federal government lowered its excise tax, but now it is jumping in and grabbing what it can.
The Premier has been a great champion of keeping the price of oil and gas down in Ontario. Of course, we all know that because he has jumped into bed with the Prime Minister of Canada in the last year and a half so that he could float along on his coattails to help him in that. That went along so well that they made a little deal with regard to the constitution. I think that is probably why the Premier is sitting over there with a majority government.
Here is another quote by the Premier on Tuesday, March 4. He said, “We will continue to resist windfall profits for provincial treasurers.” Yet he is right into that now himself. Then in another statement in the Globe and Mail on December 18, 1979, the Premier said, “In our view, among the disadvantages, it will cause serious financial hardship to keep increasing the price.”
There have been a number of speakers talking on this bill and I am trying not to be repetitive, but we know we are in an inflation cycle with the price of oil and gas. Everybody has to admit that. As long as Mr. Lougheed has control of it, we do not have much choice. There is no use paying $40 a barrel or $35 a barrel to import oil when there is oil in Alberta. We helped him outback when he first found it in the early days, when we could have bought offshore oil cheaper, but as Canadians we felt we should buy it from Alberta. I still think we should, but they are putting a little bit too much pressure on us now when they start turning down the valve.
This tax in Bill 72 is just not reasonable at this time because of the known inflation cycle we are having with oil and gasoline. It is time all those people who want to be heard got up and spoke on this bill and, in any way they can, they should stop it from being passed, particularly the ad valorem percentage. I have no objection to the increase of one cent a litre, but I cannot accept the ad valorem situation where it is tied to inflation.
Mr. Samis: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on this bill because I think the people of Cornwall riding are quite typical of people all across this province. They are essentially fair and reasonable people. Their expectations were that the budget would have those same two basic characteristics, namely, fairness and some sense of reasonableness. The greatest failing of the budget in general, and this gas tax in particular, is the essentially unfair and regressive nature it represents.
It is bad enough to increase the personal income tax for a family earning between $15,000 and $25,000 a year to the highest level in all Canada. It is bad enough to increase OHIP premiums, which are already the highest in all Canada and double our next highest province, by yet another 15 per cent. It is bad enough to increase the alcohol and tobacco taxes once again. It is bad enough to let the corporate sector off virtually scot-free in terms of tax increases, those poor, unfettered, little creatures like Argus, Imperial Oil, Denison Mines, Seagram’s, Dosco, Dominion Stores, et cetera. It is bad enough that the corporation tax, as a portion of the total tax dollar, has declined from 17.7 per cent in the 1960s to a miserable 12 per cent in this budget.
It is bad enough that this government places an excessive emphasis on sales taxes of all sorts as an ever-increasing source of revenue. It is bad enough that this budget will decrease the overall purchasing power of Ontario’s taxpayers. It is bad enough that the feds are increasing their gas tax. We are all familiar with last week’s two-cents-a-litre increase tacked on, with further increases looming this summer and later on this fall.
It is bad enough that we have all those things contained in the budget. Now we get an increase in the gas tax, which I suspect most people were probably expecting, but the introduction of the nebulous ad valorem principle is something most voters in Ontario would reject. I would dare to say that if we ever took a plebiscite or referendum on the ad valorem principle, it would be overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate.
Good old John Crosbie, a pretty salty fellow from Newfoundland, characterized the budget rather accurately. He said, “It is a pretty grim concoction, and I can only commiserate with the people of Ontario.”
It is interesting that one of the government’s staunchest supporters in the Toronto media, the Toronto Sun, had a story on May 22 dealing with the budget and more particularly, the ad valorem gas tax. The headline was, “Our Tories Join Robber Barons.” When a Tory rag feels compelled to put out that kind of headline on a story, it usually indicates the general feeling in the province about the ad valorem principle.
Obviously, it represents a tremendous amount of hypocrisy on the government side. We can recall for the past few years both the Premier (Mr. Davis) and the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) preaching to us in the opposition, to the electorate, to people at large, to business and to labour about the need to practise restraint and combat inflation. Inflation is the number one economic problem facing our economy in Ontario and, therefore, we had to practise restraint and oppose any increase of any substance from Alberta, which wanted to move towards world price for its oil.
On October 17, 1979, the Premier denounced the tax increases on gasoline that were contained in the Crosbie budget and called it “a wilful attack on individual consumers and the general economy of Ontario.” That is pretty rare for the Premier of this province. The Treasurer subsequently delivered a 16-page speech that was widely publicized by the Liberals in the television ads for their subsequent federal campaign. They were attacking the federal Tory government for the tax increases contained in its budget, saying they were unfair and would cause undue burdens for Ontario’s economy, its manufacturers and consumers.
The Premier and his colleagues have done battle with Peter Lougheed, another Tory, for the past two or three years over what they regard as the inflationary impact of the various price increases he is proposing and seeking from the federal government. Now with this ad valorem gas tax, we have a government in Ontario that is piggybacking on to every one of Premier Lougheed’s increases and even making a profit of millions on the Alberta policy of cutbacks in oil production. We saw that last week. If there are further cutbacks looming in the fall, this government will then profit even more.
This government intends to make a profit on every single future oil price increase Premier Lougheed gets. It will make a profit on every future increase obtained by the oil companies, and we all know there have been enough of them in the past and that there will be lots more to come to fill their coffers. This government will make a profit every time the federal government increases its tax on oil and thus on gasoline prices. The ad valorem tax represents indexed taxation, pure and simple. The ad valorem tax means this government has created a vested interest for itself in inflation.
This tax undermines the government’s position with regard to wellhead price increases by Alberta. How can we challenge the increases when we are now going to profit from every single one of them. What hypocrisy! It is ironic that Ontario drivers are beginning to reduce their consumption of gasoline in 1981 compared with the previous year. Because the government’s revenues apparently increased by only about $10 million compared to 1980 and 1979, I wonder if it is pure coincidence that the minister developed a sudden interest in the ad valorem principle.
Here we are preaching to drivers to reduce their consumption, to buy more energy-efficient cars and to reduce unnecessary driving. Seemingly, belatedly, finally, we are getting some sort of response from the motoring public and, wham, we hit them with the ad valorem tax.
I know the minister will argue that Ontario is not the first province to introduce the ad valorem principle. To me, that does not justify the imposition of ad valorem taxation in Ontario, and I am sure few motorists or taxpayers in this province would be persuaded by that argument. If we followed that, we would say we would abolish Ontario health insurance plan premiums since we are one of the final three provinces still retaining premiums. Yet they do not buy that argument on that side.
The ad valorem principle means a diminution in the role of legislators to approve and reject tax increases by this government. It is not quite taxation without representation, but it certainly represents a major change in the manner in which taxes are legislated and calculated in this province.
It is rather interesting that prior to the introduction of the budget the Ontario Motor League put out a couple of press releases talking about the federal ad valorem tax increase and the burden that constituted for the motoring public of Canada. I would like to quote briefly from one of those.
“A change in the federal sales tax on gasoline from a specific unit tax of five cents a gallon to a nine per cent ad valorem rate will have cost Canadian motorists an estimated $213,820,000 this past year, an increase of 62 per cent more than the year before, according to the Windsor Auto Club.”
The federal government changed its sales tax structure on April 22, 1980, as we are all familiar with. The press release goes on to say, “It is expected the feds will have collected, as a result of the ad valorem tax, $556,470,000, an increase of 62 per cent.” They say it is “a totally unjustified additional burden on motor vehicle owners. The federal government did not apply the ad valorem tax rate in previous years and the price of gasoline was relatively stable. Now it is taking advantage of the rising gasoline prices to escalate its revenue at an ever-increasing rate without appearing to be inflationary in fiscal policy, according to Doug Ainslie.
“As far as the auto club and the Ontario Motor League are concerned, an increase in taxes in this fashion without any address or publication of changes, as under the old rate, is akin to taxation without representation. By the end of this decade, the amount of the federal government’s revenue through the new ad valorem sales tax will be more than $1.3 billion annually added to the cost of gasoline. The Ontario government has indicated in the recent past its opposition to rapid and excessive increases in the price of oil.”
Ironically, this was all said prior to the budget. Here they are talking about the imposition and the cost of the federal ad valorem tax. Interestingly, they went on in another press release to talk about the overall structure of taxes in Ontario and what it means to the motorist versus the nonmotorist in the general public. I quote from that release as follows:
“Ontario motorists are paying between 25 per cent and 35 per cent more in motorist-related taxes than is equitable, according to tax data submitted to the government recently. Currently,” the Ontario Motor League report indicated, “motorists pay about 100 per cent of all motorist-related expenditures of the provincial government. This is contrary to the recommendations of the Smith report of 1967, commissioned by the provincial government.” That Smith report acknowledged that highways and other motorist-related activities of the government also benefit property owners, retailers, industry, the general public and tourism. “Because of this,” the Smith report said, “motorists should only pay between 65 per cent and 75 per cent of the annual direct road expenditures.”
Further on the statement says: “Our analysis shows that even by applying the maximum 75 per cent proposed by the Smith report the province collected excess revenues from motorists of $243 million in 1976, another $225 million in 1977, $258 million more in 1978 and $260 million more in 1979.” That is more than $1 billion more in just four years.
Then they go on to talk about the fair-share principle I enunciated. I will wind up with this quote: “The OML did not ask for a reduction in the motorist taxation. Instead it asked the government to increase expenditures.” Then they bring out further statistics in the brief. It says: “69 per cent of all automobile mileage according to Transport Canada is for travelling to and from work, for commercial travelling, personal business, shopping and external business. Even the remaining 31 per cent of automobile travel for recreational weekend trips and vacations shows how essential the automobile and good roads are today.”
We are all aware of what the federal government has introduced, and it seems to be sticking to its guns. I refer to the national energy program. One of its basic premises is that there will be minimum price increases of $4.50 per barrel in 1981, 1982 and 1983. Who knows what will happen after that. Inevitably, that means the gas tax will increase for the motorists of Ontario with each one of those increases.
This does not include increases in prices imposed by the oil companies, and we all know their voracious appetites for profits. This bill allows the provincial government to piggyback not only on Mr. Lougheed’s increases, but on the regular increases being imposed by the oil companies.
The ad valorem gas tax means an increase on oil of approximately 77 per cent in terms of taxes between now and 1983. The average family’s gas tax payments will be increasing from $138 last year to $168 this year, to $218 next year and $244 in 1983 as a result of the ad valorem gas tax increase. I would suspect those figures are rather conservative because we do not know what sort of increases the oil companies will be imposing beyond the wellhead price increases. That could increase those figures. From 1981 to 1985, even using those conservative figures, the consumers of Ontario will be paying over $2.5 billion in gas taxes. Here we are with an inflation rate of 12 to 13 per cent, and without any doubt whatsoever this tax will only mean higher prices and add to that inflation rate for the residents of Ontario.
Truckers obviously will be paying more for diesel fuel. Inevitably, the cost of trucking and transporting goods will be passed on to the consumer on a whole host of items. That will be connected with Bill 73, which we will be discussing later on in this session.
These ad valorem increases will serve to fan the fires of inflation in Ontario and only serve to increase the legitimate demands of workers all across Ontario. This is especially so in northern and eastern Ontario where the distances between home and work tend to be far greater than those in Metro Toronto, for example.
The gas tax, combined with all the other taxes imposed on the ordinary man and woman by this budget, will serve to exacerbate labour relations in the province as workers fight to at least keep up with the inflation rate, if not ahead of it. The government tells the people it had a revenue shortfall of $600 million in its effort to keep the deficit under that magic $1-billion figure.
As I said, I think people were prepared to accept some form of higher taxation in the budget. But they ask: “Why the gas tax? Is gas really in the same league as alcohol or tobacco? Is gas not an essential in today’s society and in today’s lifestyle, especially for certain classes of people?”
My colleague the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman), our able critic for the Treasury, outlined in his response to the budget a whole series of areas that could be taxed in lieu of the ad valorem gas tax. I will refer briefly to three or four of those.
When one talks about oil companies, inevitably that leads to the question of oil profits. M. Bertrand, who published the controversial report last year, concluded that the oil companies were gouging the consumers of Canada by somewhere in the realm of $12.1 billion in the period 1958-73, which works out to an average of approximately $500 for every person. If one did that on a population basis here in Ontario, it means our residents were overcharged by $4.3 billion.
Imagine what that figure would be today, considering the skyrocketing oil price increases and profiteering by the oil companies since 1973. And that does not even take into consideration the whole series of revelations by the late David Lewis on corporate welfare by the oil companies -- Shell, Imperial and some of the others -- or some of the depletion allowances for exploration purposes in the north.
Mr. Samis: That is right. But this government just will not touch those profits. Instead, they have decided to jump on the bandwagon themselves and tax the very people who are paying the ripoff prices.
Another area we could look at is the whole question of tax concessions. This government has a retail tax exemption on production machinery and equipment combined with a fast write-off on corporate taxes for machinery and equipment. That cost the taxpayers of this province somewhere in the vicinity of $345 million in lost revenue in 1980.
There is another area where the taxpayers of this province last year gave away more than $100 million of their money to put 850 workers in this province out of work. I am referring to the grants to the pulp and paper industry. Here we are giving money away to corporations at a time of substantial profit and in a few cases even record profit.
The study at Lakehead University clearly indicated many of the companies did not even need the money in the first place. The vice-president of Spruce Falls Power and Paper was very explicit about it, in fact.
I notice my colleague quoted from Professor Bird of the University of Toronto, who strongly disputed any argument that there were any benefits involved and that these plans would not have gone ahead without public subsidy in the first place.
All those are excluding such a possibility as an excess profits tax on banks, which I think would be eminently feasible and worthy. The leader of this party, I think it was three weeks ago, asked the Premier whether he was prepared to do so, and once again -- just like the oil companies -- the government would not dare to touch the profits or the profiteering of our chartered banks.
Another possibility would be the imposition of a land speculation tax, which would serve a variety of useful purposes in addition to increasing the revenue of the government. If necessary, another option could be a surtax on certain high income levels.
But no, consistently this government has refused to hit the oil companies, the speculators and the banks. They have rejected all these alternatives and imposed an ad valorem tax, which is a sneaky way of getting the average man and woman for the next decade and decades to come -- who knows when it will ever end.
I know the good people of the riding of Cornwall, if they had a chance, would reject this form of taxation immediately as unfair and regressive. As their representative in this House, I intend to cast my vote against this nebulous and unfair bill.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, there are many points that have not been fully covered in this debate as yet. I certainly do not intend to put forward an extensive review, but I can tell members that the constituents I have the honour to represent are unanimously opposed to a tax of this type. It is seen as an irresponsible approach to the costs of energy and one that my constituents find almost unbelievable.
When we look at the budget predictions of the Treasurer as to the additional revenues the tax is expected to raise, we see almost at once his predictions are out of step with reality as the cost of gasoline -- the price at the pump -- goes up even faster than he and his cat’s-paw in this particular instance would expect.
I realize the Treasurer has an elaborate procedure of pricing the gasoline for tax purposes, but I know he will be interested that at Earl’s Shell Service Station in St. George, Ontario, the unleaded gasoline of the standard type is 40 cents a litre.
Mr. Nixon: Well, Earl has got to make a living too. The minister says that’s a ripoff. I was just saying to the minister that now he has been elevated and drives around in that big car with somebody buying the gas for him, he is in a position to buy those $500 suits we see him wearing in the House since his position has improved. He used to get three for $100 from Tip Top, but that is a little different now.
Mr. Nixon: We will see. But certainly the prices have gone up more quickly than the Treasurer had estimated, or at least than he had estimated for public consumption. I am sure he is aware, as we all are, that if we look into the future we can see additional substantial increases in the cost of gasoline, and these will be additional windfalls to the Ministry of Revenue.
I regret that approach has been taken, and that is going to be the basis of my remarks. Just in passing, however, I feel I should bring to the members’ attention my concern as well with another sort of a ripoff that we have all been subjected to over the last five to eight years since unleaded gasoline was dreamed up.
If there was ever a silly approach taken in the provision of energy for automobiles, it was unleaded gasoline. I am not sure that I can even explain why it took place, but I suppose we can blame General Motors ahead of almost everybody else, since they decided that, to meet the more stringent pollution requirements of the government of the United States, they had to introduce this fancy catalytic converter that will not work if there is lead in the gasoline. The little platinum beads or whatever they have in that tin can at the bottom will not function if they are exposed to lead.
There are even people using General Motors cars and others that now require unleaded gasoline who tell me their automobiles work very well with the cheaper gas, the standard gas with tetraethyl lead added. It is a little difficult to get into the tank, of course, because the hole is artificially restricted and one needs a special kind of adapter or something like that; a good can opener would probably be sufficient.
But I regret the fact that the cost of fuel took such an unnatural leap because of the acceptance of the approach to unleaded gasoline as fuel. Because of that additional cost, three or four cents per litre, or perhaps more, and the ad valorem impositions the minister is supporting -- with all his supporters -- the citizens of this province are required to make large and substantial additional payments.
I should also say something about the imposition of gasoline tax on the farm community. I normally look up the report of the Ontario committee on taxation, reporting in 1967, when new tax bills are put before us. I usually find its recommendations quite interesting.
This is one of the few instances where the recommendation is not just what I would have liked, since the late Lancelot Smith, the chairman of the committee, advocated putting a sales tax on the basic gasoline cost plus fuel tax -- fuel tax first, before the sales tax.
Lancelot Smith was recommending what was essentially an ad valorem tax back in 1967. The minister is delighted at that, of course. But I should tell him that Lancelot Smith was also the father, mother and originator of the regional government concept. So there are instances where his recommendations have not been universally accepted by the taxpayers or the good citizens of the province even in the area the honourable minister represents.
If we could just get the voters down there to really think about regional government, Mr. Speaker, neither you nor your colleague the Minister of Revenue would be in public life -- something ardently to be desired.
But in looking up the references to gasoline tax, I was interested to read that the first provincial gasoline tax was levied not in Ontario, but in Alberta. That is quite a coincidence, since Alberta is the only province that does not have a gasoline tax now. It was back in 1922, and I believe they got the bright idea from the state of Washington or somewhere that putting a few cents on a gallon of gasoline was a good revenue producer.
In many of those areas, of course, the revenue from the gasoline tax was directly earmarked for expenditure on highways and road maintenance, capital and maintenance. I am very glad we have not done that here. I do not believe that any of our revenues should be earmarked, whether from lotteries or any other source.
I have often felt that even in the instance of our lotteries, and I know the Speaker will permit me this very brief diversion, it is not a good thing to have those moneys allocated for a specific purposes, worthy though the purpose may be.
I believe that gasoline tax and other revenues should all go into the consolidated revenue fund, and basically it should be the decision of His Honour’s advisers to determine how the money is spent. Then in a responsible system, the people know who is to blame and, therefore, who to vote against. Sometimes that is a lesson opposition people ought to concentrate on more than any other.
I believe that our present tax system, particularly with the involvement of the government of Canada, is basically misleading. A large amount of our provincial revenue is collected in Ottawa and comes to us, no strings attached, so that the honourable ministers can bring forward their programs in welfare and whatever else, build roads, open up another William G. Davis High School, or something like that. Actually, these are paid for in the overall budget to the extent of well over 40 per cent by the poor downtrodden government in Ottawa, which is the subject of so much ill-founded and ill-advised criticism by the people opposite.
The gasoline tax, beginning in Alberta, was soon adopted and adapted, since they made it a bit bigger in Ontario. The farmers have gone through phases when they were exempt and some times when they were not completely exempt.
There is one area that I want to bring to the members’ attention, because I have always felt that there was a needless bureaucracy involved in collecting the tax from the farmers and then having them throw out a form requiring and requesting the repayment of the tax by the gasoline tax branch.
I have never been over to see those people. I feel they are always quite efficient, although I made a little error in my last application for a rebate: I sent in the same receipts twice. Believe it or not, they did not give me the money; they only gave me part of it. I never got around to figuring out why they even gave me the part if it was a complete duplication. I do not know if there is anybody here from the refund branch or not, but I may get a call from them in the near future asking for that extra $42.71.
It seems to me needlessly bureaucratic and wasteful if the farmer is required to shell out the tax and then at specific periods of time to very carefully fill out an application with all the invoice numbers and all the invoices fully receipted and send it back to the government for repayment. I must say that they are very careful about that, and I am sure they should be careful in that procedure. They must have a large staff that is required to do this.
I should point out that it was only for a brief period beginning about July 1943 that the procedure was abandoned and the farmers were registered. If you were a registered farmer, the gas was put into your tank and you did not have to pay the gas tax. What could be more reasonable than that? I am glad to tell the members that it was one of the many progressive orders in council established by Premier Harry Nixon during his brief tenure.
At that time there was also a procedure whereby the gasoline was coloured purple; it was a heavy purple colour, just like that spray stuff that not everybody has seen coming out of those $100 cans into the spray tanks. Heaven help you if you were ever found with purple gas in your carburettor. Fortunately, in our family there was never any danger of being caught. But I have heard other farmers say the purpleness could be extracted by pouring the gas through a loaf of bread the top and bottom of which had been sawn off. Then the bread toasted afterwards was quite good.
Mr. Nixon: It certainly has everything to do with the gasoline tax, because, as the members know, we are going to be debating another bill equally important but with an entirely different set of principles involved, having to do with motor vehicle fuel.
In this instance I can call up my friendly British Petroleum dealer; he can bring in the diesel fuel and he does not charge me tax. I put that in my tank, and it will certainly work very well in an automobile if anybody were even thinking of breaking the law and putting any of that fuel in a diesel car.
In the budget statement and in the bill the minister says they are going to colour middle distillates, whatever those are, and they are going to colour them purple, exactly as they did in the bad old Liberal days. I just wonder what will happen if you strain that stuff through a loaf of bread with the top and the bottom cut off.
It does not seem to be consistent. Certainly I believe that, if the minister were going to do something that might mitigate the political difficulties he is experiencing with the imposition of this unpopular tax, he might very well have told those people who are exempt from the tax -- not just farmers but those who are totally exempt -- that they can be registered and the fuel that is delivered to them will be tax-exempt.
If there is any point in my talking about the purple it is probably that it was a waste of time colouring it then and it probably still is now. I do not know whether the minister has considered that. I am sure he should. I do not know how many people in the gas tax rebate office are hired to look after all those applications, but it seems to me the administrative saving would be considerable. I am sure there would be some reasonable way of sampling cars so the coloured fuel would not be used in an illegal way.
Laws such as that are sometimes broken; for example, the liquor laws. The honourable member is now the welfare minister not the minister of liquor, but I notice he is paying attention to my comments and rolling his eyes as is his wont, expressing his views on the points I am making.
When I look at the situation with regard to the colouring of fuel, I simply want to make the strongest point I can to the minister that we have experienced in the past the exemption of farmers. Certainly the fuel used on the roads for the running of cars and trucks should be taxable on a fair and equitable basis. We would save money and we would make a law like this much more acceptable than it would otherwise be.
I also want to talk about the impact of this additional tax on the economy of the province. From my own experience in the House the Premier, beginning with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel situation in 1973 and with every change in the price of crude oil resulting in changes in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel, usually would get up and tell us how many jobs were lost in Ontario by each increase in the cost of fuel.
Actually, the total revenue increase predicted by the Treasurer is more than $600 million. Not all of that is attributable to the gasoline tax, but a substantial amount is. I cannot help but remember the statements frequently made by the Premier and the then Treasurer, Darcy McKeough -- who also went through a phase when he was Minister of Energy as he was coming through for his second incarnation as Treasurer -- when the predictions of the number of jobs lost were always carried in red headlines in the Toronto Star and by whatever means they use in the Globe and Mail when they want to emphasize things. They would always be directed against the government in Ottawa which was simply doing its best in a fair and judicious way to meet the needs of the citizens of Canada.
With the Tories in Alberta raising the price and the Tories in Toronto picking away at the policies of the government of Canada, it was difficult for the government of Canada in those circumstances to be seen to be fair and judicious by everyone who was observing the political situation.
I would not think the Premier and Mr. McKeough were simply playing rather cheap, third-rate politics in those days by listing all the jobs that would be lost in Ontario as the overall cost of fuel went up by each $1 million. Now, with one fell swoop in this piggyback arrangement of an ad valorem tax, if what they said then was true, we must be losing jobs now just at a time when the level of unemployment is as serious as it is.